White Instagram users dominate the online influencer market, so it’s unsurprising that these users are also at the forefront of the platform’s niche communities, including Plant Instagram a.k.a. #Plantsagram. Plant enthusiasts, plant parents, and interior designers who craft stunning indoor green spaces and share tips and tricks for building your own are the majority of #Plantstagram users, making it an appealing community for those who are new to gardening and those who are struggling to keep a succulent alive. But digital plant communities aren’t as accessible—or welcoming—for those who aren’t white.
In the same way that white people dominate the Van Life movement, the majority of Plantstagram’s influencers are white, feeding into the idea that gardening is an activity most partaken in by white people. But Black people, especially in the United States, have been outdoors enthusiasts for generations, from having to tend the crops on plantations to tapping into both gardening and farming as a means of accessing fresh food and vegetables. Over time, though, the relationship between Black people and gardening has shifted. A 2018 thesis by Matthew Goodrid fpr the University of the Pacific explains that “the environmental trauma that African Americans have experienced in outdoor settings throughout American history” along with other factors, like brands choosing not to market to Black people, has fostered the cultural misconception that Black people don’t have a connection to indoor or outdoor green spaces. But Black Plantstagrammers are challenging the assumption that only white people garden.
“Black people have a relationship with the Earth that goes back thousands of years,” says Carmeon Hamilton, a 34-year-old lifestyle designer, environmental curator, and self-defined plant whisperer. “Whether for agriculture, infrastructure or medicinal reasons, we’ve always gotten what we’ve needed from the earth.” Hamilton, who created the Nubi Plant Parenting Community, which offers tips and resources for taking better care of plants, says that Instagram has become a way for Black plant-lovers to connect. “Instagram puts a community of your people right at your fingertips. With the tap of a hashtag, you now have a direct connection with people that not only have the same interests as you, but you can also learn something from. The education is the most valuable part of the connection.”
Scrolling through Black Plantstagram is refreshing. I come across Black women holding newly budding flowers against their cheeks; a Black person peeking over a massive monstera; a Black woman and her child gardening together; a Black man smiling and standing proudly amongst a variety of pots and planters, all sprouting something gorgeous and new. Seeing a Black hand holding a thriving green plant to the sun is a much-needed jolt of color against a whitewashed industry. Black Plantstagram makes me feel more invested in this community, and more willing to add a new plant or two to my collection. It can be difficult to pursue a new passion where isn’t a sense of community support or belonging. As Goodrid notes in their research, one of the facets of oppression that can prevent Black people from engaging with activities like gardening is “the construction and maintenance of outdoor recreation as a white activity”, so it’s easy to assume you don’t belong or won’t receive support.
Black Plantstagram accounts are aiming to make that support more visible, so all feel welcome to garden—and document their growing plant families online. For example, @blackgirlswithgardens, an Instagram account that boasts more than 44,000 followers, defines itself as “a multicultural home and garden resource providing representation, support, inspiration, and education for [B]lack women creating green spaces.” @blackgirlswithgardens’ self-proclaimed brother brand, @blackmenwithgardens, highlights “suns of mother earth.” And @blackwithplants showcases a variety of Black people who enjoy gardening and connecting plants.
“Encouraging Black people to engage with green spaces and plants is anti-hegemonic, and engenders opportunity to explore liberation and sovereignty more intimately,” says D’Real Graham, an herbalist and placemaker who created @blackwithplants. Graham says that Instagram acts as “a digital liminal space [for] a dynamic network of ethnobotanists, urban farmers, and practitioners” who are decolonizing and decentering whiteness.” A 2015 report in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that having and raising indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress, especially since, as the report found, “more than 85 percent of a person’s daily life is spent indoors.” Considering the additional stresses that Black people face, and their health impacts, the reduction of stress is hugely important.
“Although the chronic condition of stress can have negative side effects on all persons,” the American Psychological Association writes, “the unique psycho-social and contextual factors, specifically the common and pervasive exposure to racism and discrimination, creates an additional daily stressor for African Americans.” In short: Black people are experiencing stress in massive numbers. If gardening and planting offer a way to fight this stress, then it’s an activity should be encouraged, especially on Instagram. “I don’t think I would even know so many Black people were so into houseplants if it weren’t for Instagram,” says Briana St. Holder, an Atlanta-based plant curator and Instagram influencer. “Houseplants are for everyone and people are starting to see that more and more because Black people are showing their love for them on the platform.”
Seeing happy Black people surrounded by greenery feels like a specific sort of good. “It’s so important for Black people to get involved with greenspaces because houseplants can contribute so much to your overall wellness,” St. Holder continued. “They add so much joy, liveliness, and positivity in your home or office and it’s something that’s so simple that everyone has access to.”
Each Black Planstagram account features an array of people loving on their plants: some photos are indoors and some are taken outdoors, but each and every photo features endless greenery and offers a sense of calm and peace. It’s a massive shift away from the videos of anti-Black violence that tend to fill Black people’s timelines. It’s much nicer—and healthier—to take a virtual scroll through the garden.