How This Black Queer Activist Became The Plant Kween Of The World
“I was like, I don’t see anyone that looks like me,” says Christopher Griffin. “I know we’re out here...I wonder how many other folks are hiding behind their plants.”
Almost every photo on the Instagram profile of Plant Kween has one thing in common: the Kween themself, Christopher Griffin, front and center striking a pose.
In some photos, they flaunt the plants they house inside their New York City apartment and share tips on caring for the fiddle-leaf fig or their newest philodendron. In others, they are gallivanting through greenhouses — bathed in sunlight, mouth agape in a massive smile, hands flung effortlessly into the air, and exuding a joy that would make anyone instantly believe in the magic of nature’s gifts.
“GURL, now this kween loves all the leaves her monstera grows, but it be those leaves serving Swiss cheese realness that she be really cherishing,” begins one caption. And in every photo, of course, Griffin is surrounded on all sides by their beloved plants, which they call their “green gurls,” glowing bright and framing them like an aura.
But it’s not all just fun and plants. Among all this zest, of course, lies Griffin’s expert tips on how to keep those green gurls thriving. And the girls are living.
Griffin, a Black, queer, and nonbinary femme, has quickly built a popular social media brand around their deep love of plants. The proud parent of 160 green gurls, they share comprehensive plant care tips in multi-paragraph captions with their nearly 200,000 Instagram followers — all with a style and flair one might not typically associate with horticulture.
“It explores my creative side in terms of how I speak about my plant care or how I choose to create a visual representation of how I’m caring for my plants, which is really fun,” Griffin recently told BuzzFeed LGBTQ.
Placing themself at the center of each photo was a deliberate choice. When they launched Plant Kween, they wanted to carve out a larger space for queer people of color in the plant community.
“I was like, I don’t see anyone that looks like me,” they explained. “I know we’re out here. I know there are other Black queer femme–identified folks… That’s actually what forced me to start putting myself in the photos. I was like, I wonder how many other folks are hiding behind their plants.”
Hundreds of thousands of followers and countless likes later, there seems to be a lot more folks out there than Griffin could have imagined. Griffin’s dedication to creating this visibility has now led them to begin writing about more than plant care. And while the green gurls will forever be the stars, they have now become a vehicle for Griffin to share more.
Recently, for example, Griffin posted a long entry on coming out to their parents as nonbinary. “No long conversation was needed,” they wrote below a photo of themself with their arms draped around their parents, plants surrounding the beaming trio, “no long explanation ... my parents listened, heard me, and simply accepted what has always been my truth.”
The caption, which got over 30,000 likes and almost 800 comments, went on to educate followers on the meaning of gender identity, gender expression, and nonbinary. And this care Griffin is giving to the plants and their Instagram followers has also begun to teach them as well.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down New York City and as Griffin found themselves like many of us in a ‘new’ normal, the plant care and self-care became even more one in the same as we were all urged to stay home. Having their plants to tend to, they explain, has made them better at tending to themself. It makes them think about whether they have had enough water, whether they are getting enough sunlight, and whether they are paying attention to what their body is saying it needs.
“There’s just something about bringing the outdoors indoors that has really decreased my levels of stress and anxiety,” Griffin said.
“When there are moments where I’m anxious or feeling stressed, I’ll take a pause and I’ll just tend to my plants. And it gives me an opportunity to step away from technology, gives me an opportunity to rest my voice, gives me an opportunity to rest my mind and really just get back to the basics, having interactions with nature.”
Griffin bought their first plant in 2016 with the simple goal of brightening up their new Brooklyn apartment. They recalled the enchanting nursery trips they took with their grandmother as a child and wanted to recreate that joy. So, they picked up a marble queen pothos — a cascading plant known for its heart-shaped leaves — from a nearby hardware store. The plant was in bad shape, Griffin remembered, but they figured out how to nurse it back to life.
“It felt good,” they said. “I was reminded of my grandmother and that experience. Feeding love to something and it growing, I was like, I love this feeling.”
So Griffin began to buy more. And more. They began to read and research everything they could about plants. They had long conversations with experts at nurseries. They attended plant swaps and workshops, and quickly fell in love with building community through plants.
Griffin still has that very first marble queen pothos nestled among their plant kweendom. When they bought it, they never expected it would lead them to become the phenomenon they are today. Now just a few years later, Plant Kween has been featured on Good Morning America and in the Los Angeles Times, and just the other day they hosted their first virtual, indoor gardening session in collaboration with Sunwink and Horti to benefit the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.
“It was never the plan,” they said of their rising fame. “I was like, I just want to share my plants, and it turned into this beautiful adventure.”
When they are not basking in the glow of their green gurls and bringing joy to plant lovers everywhere, Griffin is the assistant director of the NYU LGBTQ+ Center. Their plants, they say, give them the strength to fully support their students.
“I feel like my Plant Kween journey gives me energy to continue to show up in the best way possible for my students and make sure I’m giving them the best of me, giving them the best of my idea,” they said. “I know if I didn’t have the Black and queer folks that really mentored me throughout my higher education experience, I wouldn’t be here today. So I really want to be that for my students.”
Looking toward the future, Griffin dreams of one day having their very own greenhouse, as well as visiting different botanical gardens around the world. But for now, though, Griffin is content where they are.
“I’m enjoying the adventure. I’m enjoying the journey. I’m enjoying the opportunities that are coming my way. I’m enjoying the opportunity to share my story and just to connect with folks, and that’s what I want to continue doing.”