It's intimidating, caring for almost 160 house plants, but Christopher Griffin of the popular Instagram account @plantkween does it with a smile.
The Black, queer, and nonbinary femme activist traces their plant-loving roots back to their youth: As a child in Philadelphia, Griffin would visit nurseries with their grandmother, who loved to garden. "Whenever we would got to a nursery, I was 4, 5 years old, so I didn't really know what was going on," they tell me over the phone from their Brooklyn apartment. "I just thought, Oh, we're going to this jungle, and we get to take pieces of this jungle home with us. I think at a very young age, she was nurturing the nurturer in me."
Griffin launched @plantkween in December 2016 after bringing their first "green gurl" home to their New York City apartment (it's a marble queen pothos, if you were wondering, and yes, she's still kicking.) The name is a playful nod to "queen," a word that's always been a part of Griffin's vernacular as a Black queer femme.
Today, Griffin has added some 158 more plants to their personal collection. More than 221,000 people follow @plantkween, tuning in for a daily look at Griffin's thriving house plants, sage plant-care advice, and infectious smile. They regularly collab with popular brands like Horti (@heyhorti) and take their followers on virtual visits to Brooklyn nurseries and horticulture hotspots.
Christopher Griffin, a.k.a. @plantkween.
Plants are like people, Griffin says: simple yet so intricate. They don't entertain the idea of a "green thumb," a myth they believe creates unnecessary anxiety and stress for people who want to own plants. "I always tell folks that it's not really the idea of having a green thumb but just matching the plant to your personality, to your behavior, and what you're able to take care of," they say.
For Griffin, caring for their plants isn't a routine chore on their to-do list; it's a genuine source of joy. They're quick to admit that watering 159 plants can be "a little intimidating," but that's nothing that can't be fixed with a cocktail, a cute lewk, and some good pump-up tunes. (Griffin recommends '90s R&B or "Beyoncé, Celine, Mariah, Lady Gaga—obviously any of the divas.")
On a personal level, tending to their green gurls has reinforced the importance of Griffin's own self-care routines, something that has only become more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There was a moment early on in my plant journey where I was like, Oh, I need to make sure the plant has enough light, make sure it has water, be sure its roots are strong and its foundation is strong," Griffin recalls. "And then I looked at myself and I was like, Wait a minute, gurl—what about you?! What about your body?"
Perhaps most importantly, @plantkween is an outlet for Griffin to express and reflect on their own happiness. It's especially important to them as a Black creator. Since the death of George Floyd in May, America has seen a resurgence of activism—both IRL and on social media—against police brutality and systemic racism. The exchange of information is "so, so important," and something Griffin appreciates deeply as a lifelong LGBTQ advocate. They work a 9–5 job as the assistant director of NYU's LGBTQ+ Center, a job they love. (And before you ask: Yes, their office is filled with plants. Fifty plants, to be exact.)
But for Black queer people navigating social media, the constant deluge of content centering Black suffering and death can do more harm than good. "It's traumatizing to see a Black person being arrested and assaulted by police or being murdered by police," Griffin says. "It's traumatizing to see that another Black trans woman was killed. So, we need spaces where we can see joy."
A quick scan of the comments on any @plantkween post reveals just how much joy Griffin's followers see in their content. And that's purposeful. The account isn't really about Griffin, they explain; it's "really about other people seeing that, 'Hey! People are uplifting and loving up on this Black queer, nonbinary femme? Wow! That should be the norm!'"
"I'm like, 'Yeah! Y'all should be loving up on us because we are beautiful,'" Griffin adds. "'We are magical. We are reimagining and creating new possibilities around how to exist in this world that wasn't created for us.' Black queer joy is revolutionary."