Finding that corner with optimal sunlight, the perfect pot, and the trick for guiding a little sprout to its full, wild potential—is there anything more gratifying than helping a leafy, living thing thrive? In our new Plant Parents series, we spotlight flora lovers and their tips and tools for raising happy, healthy buds and blooms.
When Christopher Griffin moved into a new apartment three years ago, he felt like it was missing something. So he headed to his local hardware store and left with a marble queen pothos—the first plant in his collection of now more than 160.
His collection started growing after he saw that he could properly care for the dual-tone plant, and he eventually began showing off his “green gurls” on Instagram. His love of plants is deeply tied to his passion for community building, and social media is one way he’s been able to learn from and connect with other green thumbs. “Most of my captions are like diary entries—I think it’s important to share your story,” he says. “But coming together in person is also meaningful to me: I’ve done plant and cutting swaps, a propagation workshop—I even did a drag show to celebrate Pride last year.”
While plant lover get-togethers might be on pause, Griffin has not slowed down sharing his advice with his 177,000 Instagram followers, and he’s enjoyed the extra time to tend to and research the many philodendrons, cacti, and more that fill his Brooklyn home. Here, he shares the backstory of his indoor jungle and his best plant advice.
On His Shopping Strategy
If something isn’t growing in its usual shape or color, or it’s something I haven’t seen before, I gravitate toward that. I’ll Google the plant or ask folks working at a plant shop about how to care for it, and if I can provide it with an environment that can help it thrive and grow, I’m taking that plant into my plant fam. I really love philodendrons, snake plants, cacti, and succulents. If the price is right, sometimes I buy two of the same plant, and I’ll put them in different parts of my apartment to see which does best as an experiment—I always like to lead with curiosity.
On His Introduction to Plants
My grandmother was the inspiration behind this entire journey—she was the one who introduced me to plant shopping when I was young and we would go on trips to her favorite nursery. She would let me pick out plants, and I was like, “Oh, my goodness, we’re going to the jungle and we get to take plants home with us?!” Seeing her joy when she was in her garden was absolutely beautiful, so I thought of her when I bought my first plant, and I took it seriously because I wanted to make sure I was doing her proud. My grandmother is the original Plant Kween—she was always sharing everything she would learn about plants.
On His Biggest Plant Challenge
Fiddle-leaf figs are really popular, but they’re also really moody. I’ve killed a bunch of them. Crest Hardware gifted me a baby one—the plant looked so fragile that I was like, “I couldn’t take care of a large one, how am I going to take care of the baby?” But she’s still alive and doing really well. It inspired me to revisit some of the plants that I’ve struggled with in the past—now I have two fiddle-leaf figs, and they’re doing quite well.
On His Watering Schedule
Depending on how cloudy it’s been, I water every week to every week and a half, typically on a Sunday. I’ll make a little cocktail, play some ’90s R&B, and water my plants. It usually takes me two to three hours. I just picked up a continuous spray mister, which has been very helpful.
On His Biggest Plant Learning Curve
Something I’ve struggled with as a nurturer is overwatering. I’ve had to really stop myself from doing it. I use a lot of terracotta pots, and they’re very porous, so they allow the soil to dry out. Now I know, even if I overwater a plant, it’s probably not going to sit in wet soil because the pot will help it dry out. Overwatering sometimes looks like underwatering, so learning the difference is really helpful. If I look at a plant and she’s not doing what she should be doing—she’s not growing or she’s yellowing—I look at the roots, and if they’re good, I’ll repot in fresh soil.
On His Plant Routine
In the morning I’ll play some music and spray my plants that have aerial roots. As I’ve been working from home, I’ve been picking a plant that I can bring to my desk to be my work buddy for the day. I’ll look at it and see if it’s had any new growth and do some more research on it.
On Naming Plants
They don’t have names, but I do love their scientific names—they remind me of drag queen names, and I get my life inspiration from drag. I call them all my green gurls.
On the Best Plant to Gift
Every time I step into a friend’s apartment, I always say, “What direction are you facing?” I like to assess their living situation so I can match a plant to their apartment. I really love to gift snake plants—they’re so resilient, and you don’t need to water them often. They can also survive in a lot of different lighting conditions.
On Finding Peace in Nature
Living in New York, you have to get creative about how you surround yourself with greenery. We have to be intentional. Visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a weekly thing for me—when it was open, I would go before or after watering my plants on Sunday. I like to see if there is any new growth from my favorite plants—there’s a monstera deliciosa that’s absolutely huge, and there’s another beautiful monstera deliciosa at the New York Botanical Garden that trails up a wall. It allows me to escape and replenish myself.
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This story was originally published in June 2020. It has since been updated.