If you have an Instagram page, then surely you've seen the growing number of black women getting into the plant game. Since we began quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of black women becoming plant moms has grown exponentially. Caring for plants has propelled itself far past its aesthetic roots, and instead the act of growing, cultivating, and watering something outside of ourselves has become a lifeline, a reminder of normalcy, and an act of self-care. From the Fiddle-leaf fig tree to Bird of Paradise, houseplants have become a reminder of how beautiful growth can be.
Still, for many, having plants was a passion long before we even heard of COVID-19. I reached out to some of these women, women I like to call OG plant moms. During our conversation, we discussed how they got into caring for plants, what plants they love, and tips and tricks for caring for plants just in case you need help like me. Here's the rundown.
Meet the Ladies
Antonia, who is a teacher by day, not only cares for her two dogs, she also has over 60 plants. She runs a site called The Modern Plant Lady where she gives you the quick rundown and simple steps to care for your houseplants. Follow Antonia @themodernplantlady.
Chanel Anice is a self-proclaimed plant mom, vibe cultivator and yogi. Chanel drops tons of tips and tricks on her Instagram page, so make sure you follow her @chanel.alamode.
Veronica, who is known in the houseplant space as The Houseplant Therapist, uses plants for therapy. She's also the creator of #brownskinplantmama. Access a free plant buying guide here and follow her @brownskinplantmama.
How did you develop your green thumb?
Antonia: I developed my green thumb through lots of research and plant conversations with my mother. I spent many hours reading and learning about plants.
Chanel: Growing up, my mom always kept a ton of plants around the house. Like, a lot, even by my standards. But they were just always there so I never paid them much attention— until I bought my first plant (a snake plant) back in 2016. One plant became two, then three and my collection just slowly grew from there! I always say to start with something easy and low-maintenance to boost your confidence. From there, you really can learn a lot from YouTube University! There's a whole thriving plant community on there with a wealth of knowledge. I can be kind of intense and love learning about new things, so there was a period of time where I was literally watching hours of plant videos daily, just completely in awe of their magic!
Veronica: My mother is a master gardener and I grew up with a living room full of houseplants of all different types. There were so many plants you could barely see out of the front window! In addition to our indoor plant collection, we grew food in our outdoor garden. I would help my mother tend to our different fruits and vegetables at a young age, so I guess you could say that my ability to care for plants is an inherited gift that was passed down because, in addition to my mother, I come from a lineage of sharecroppers.
What plants do you find yourself gravitating towards?
Antonia: I find myself gravitating towards big ones! I get excited about anything that's big and green. I love tall plants and ones that spread out wide. I remember the first time I got my hands on a tall Fiddle-leaf fig (taller than me), I was ecstatic! I would walk into my living room and regularly gawk at it. To have something so beautiful in my home made me extremely happy.
Chanel: I have all sorts of plants in my collection, but I always find myself drawn to tropical plants— Monsteras, birds of paradise, ZZ plants, Rubber Plants. Those are a few of my favorites. They make such a bold statement with their striking leaves, and I really love that kind of boho, jungle vibe for my space. Tropical plants are the perfect way to add that flair.
Veronica: I absolutely love pothos and philodendron varieties. Each have their own uniqueness and I love that they can either climb or trail.
"Plants have become a form of self-care for me because they force me to slow down and give them attention. I check on my plants every Wednesday and Saturday. This means that no matter how crazy the week is, right in the middle of it all, I have to take time to check on every plant in my home and give it the care it needs. When Saturday rolls around after an exhausting week, waking up and tending to my plants provides me a sense of calmness and clarity."
How have plants become a form of self-care in your home, especially during these times of COVID-19?
Antonia: Plants have become a form of self-care for me because they force me to slow down and give them attention. I check on my plants every Wednesday and Saturday. This means that no matter how crazy the week is, right in the middle of it all, I have to take time to check on every plant in my home and give it the care it needs. When Saturday rolls around after an exhausting week, waking up and tending to my plants provides me a sense of calmness and clarity. It relaxes me and helps me decompress from the week.
Chanel: My plants have always been a form of self-care for me. They are natural mood-boosters and stress-reducers, which is one of the first things that I noticed when I first started taking care of plants a few years ago. With all the uncertainty in the world, it's so easy to get caught up in thinking about the past or worrying about the future, which is ultimately the root of a lot of the feelings of sadness, worry, and anxiety we might be experiencing. My plants keep me grounded in the moment because you really have to get still and pay attention to learn each plant and her unique needs. Putting that time and energy into taking care of my plants naturally translates into me taking better care of and being kinder to myself. Plus, the simple joy of seeing the plant you've been nurturing putting out a new leaf is like nothing else! All the amazing people and communities I've met through my plant journey have been an unexpected bonus. That sense of connectedness is something that a lot of us are missing while we're stuck at home.
"My plants keep me grounded in the moment because you really have to get still and pay attention to learn each plant and her unique needs. Putting that time and energy into taking care of my plants naturally translates into me taking better care of and being kinder to myself."
Veronica: I truly believe that plants can be used as therapeutic properties for mental emotional and spiritual healing. My sister died unexpectedly in February of 2018. I avoided going to grief therapy for a year and finally embarked on the journey after putting it off for an entire year. Having successfully gone through a year and one month of traditional talk therapy, I ended our relationship (it was amicable) and was met with the responsibility of continuing the hard work I had done over the last year. One week prior to the shutdown, I visited my local nursery to grab some new plants hoping that they would uplift my spirit from the late winter blues.
Little did I know that one trip would not only bring me back to my love for plants, but provide me with a healthy practice to continue my journey of self-love and healing after the intentional work with my therapist. I had lost myself completely when my sister died. I was in a very dark place and didn't have the will to care for myself or anything else (other than my daughter). It was all a divine connection the way plants saved me. Had I not selected the therapist that I did (who had plants all over her office which piqued my interest in them again), I would not have seen and experienced the healing properties of plants and I most certainly would not have a platform that is geared towards helping others find and understand that plant therapy is real! All of this happened unexpectedly during the pandemic as my next necessary pivot. I am humbled to be the vessel to do such divinely inspired empowerment work.
"I truly believe that plants can be used as therapeutic properties for mental emotional and spiritual healing... I had lost myself completely when my sister died. I was in a very dark place and didn't have the will to care for myself or anything else (other than my daughter). It was all a divine connection the way plants saved me."
Can you share any tips or tricks that you’ve learned on your plant journey?
Antonia: Reach out and connect with other plant parents and lovers. There's a wealth of knowledge in the plant community and most plant folks love to talk about plants and help others with their plants. Most plants get overwatered. Go under before over. If you're struggling with a plant, don't give up. Do some research, reach out to plant-loving people and keep trying. Don't be so quick to throw it out and get a new one. Getting to know a new plant takes time. The tips and tricks out there on the web are a great starting point, but sometimes it takes you figuring it out on your own as you get to know your plant. Be patient.
Chanel:It might sound obvious, but when it comes to keeping your plants happy, light and water are really the two most important factors. So, before you choose a plant, take some time to learn your space. Are there lots of trees or tall buildings outside of your window? What type of light does your space get? Watch how the light moves and changes in different rooms throughout the day. Pull out the compass app on your phone and figure out which direction your windows face— a north-facing window is going to get a lot less light than a south- or west-facing window. Then you can choose plants that will actually survive and thrive in your space. Next, I always recommend you get a moisture meter. They're only $12 on Amazon and they basically take all the guesswork out of watering.
Veronica: The most vital tip that I have learned and constantly share is that you must know the conditions of your living space first because going out to buy a ton of plants. If you don't have the environment for your plants to thrive, you will not be successful at keeping them alive. Knowing the lighting situation in your home is so important because it will lessen the headache that comes with trying to care for a plant in the ways it needs. Knowing the lighting situation in your space also allows you to find particular plants that thrive in that environment. Not doing so will cause many headaches down the line so let's avoid that before it becomes an issue (P.S. grow lights are helpful when you don't have the best lighting, but I wouldn't recommend them until one has some care experience under their belt).
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Originally published August 20, 2020
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
It (almost) never fails. Whenever I do an interview, someone will ask me: 1) is it hard to be a marriage life coach and not be married (chile, these clients are a part of the reason why I’m more cautious than ever about mate selection) and 2) am I lonely when it comes to being single? From the angle of loving Black men and understanding, daily, what a marital covenant can do for a person, I am totally open to jumping somebody’s broom one day. Lonely though? No. Not really. And a part of the reason is because I have such an awesome group of male friends.
No, I’m not one of those women who don’t see the value in female friends too. It’s just that one demographic “scratches one itch” while the other scratches another. And when it comes to men, specifically, there are certain things that they bring to my life that are simply incomparable.
That’s why, whenever single women will tell me that they are getting restless as they wait on their husband to make his presence known, I am quick to ask, “Girl, where are your male friends at?” Because while they can’t meet every need that a husband can (and should), believe me when I say that they do offer some bona fide benefits that will definitely make them a great alternative on a few different levels.
I’ve got a solid six for you today.
1. Men Are Not Women. Let’s Start There.Giphy
Listen, I’m sure that there is a lot of good stuff out in TikTok world; however, as a life coach myself, on the coaching front, truly sensible advice can really be like a needle in a haystack on that platform — especially when it comes to trustworthy (and sound) insight on men. So much stuff is rooted in bitterness, stereotypes, and gross generalizations (generalizations are typically rooted in bitterness, by the way) that there’s no way that it can be seen as being even close to being reliable.
And as much as some of y’all might not want to hear what I’m about to say, I think a part of the reason is because a lot of women don’t want to accept that men are just…different. Not in a “Yeah, I know. They should be more like us” kind of way. I mean, a “God made it that way by design, and science is there to back it up.”
For instance, some professionals believe that women having more blood flood to the brain is why they are more emotional in their communication style, while men are typically more direct (more on that in a bit). Other studies reveal that women are more comfortable with their emotions while men tend to be more centered (and sometimes quicker) at problem-solving. And while a woman’s right hemisphere of her brain is more developed to the point where she is more sensitive and empathetic, a man’s is more developed to where he is more “mathematic” (2+2=4, that’s it) and explorative.
This kind of stuff always fascinates me, so while I could go on and on, the bottom line here is men's and women’s wiring are not identical.
And while society keeps trying to make them be the same via all of these damn gender wars, the beauty in the differences is men and women can actually provide each other with balance. Because, after all, as a man by the name of Larry Dixon once said, “If two people were exactly alike, one of them would be unnecessary.” And both men and women are…necessary.
2. Guys Tend to Have a “Straight No Chaser” ApproachGiphy
Whenever I read an article about how social media is creating more narcissists than ever, I can’t help but nod my head up and down in total agreement. I don’t even hesitate because one example of this that I see on a regular basis is how people are becoming more and more wired for praise, and yet they can’t handle any kind of criticism or call out to hold themselves accountable to save their lives.
You know who will bring you back down to earth, though? A good friend. And guy friends? I guess due to some of the science that I just mentioned, I don’t have one in my life who pulls any punches. Although some are more, let’s go with tactful in their approach (LOL), there’s not one who sugarcoats issues or tells me what I want to hear. And you know what? I need that. I don’t need flatterers (even the Bible frowns on that…did you know that? — Job 17:5); I need folks who will be as direct, candid, and “Well Shellie, you asked” as I tend to be with other people. It keeps me responsible. It grows me up. And it helps me to better discern when my ego is getting all up in the way.
Yeah, if you want to hear the REAL real, a guy will deliver it to you. Which brings me to the next way that they are a true “win.”
3. They’re Good At Catching Blind SpotsGiphy
Back when I was on my “Get Your Heart Pieces Back Tour” (you can read more about it here), there was a guy from my past who I was talking heavy with for a few weeks. He’s always been fine. The sex was always incredible. And, back in the day, he was there for me during a time that was very dark in my life, which is why I will always hold a special affection for him. That’s why, I ain’t got no lies to tell y’all — after our first eight-hour-straight conversation, I was ready to get on a plane and (eh hem) relive some memories. So, what stopped me? One was a particular conviction that I have (perhaps we’ll discuss that at another time). Another was a conversation that I had with two of my male friends.
One asked me, “So, who contacted who?” Oh, the loaded question that will make you reflect on talking to these exes, chile. The other said, “He said he did what when he found out his ex cheated?” Listen, I don’t know who reads my content or not as far as people who know or who knew me, so I won’t get all into the details. I’ll just say that it wasn’t anything violent, but it was intense. And those two questions, put together, caused me to ponder some things that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Because while my girlfriends thought that it was some rom-com come to life, my guy friends were like, “Uh-uh. Think it ALL the way through.” They simply had eyes where I didn’t because…they are guys who know guys. Simple as that.
4. They’re Like the Big Brothers (or More Big Brothers) You Never HadGiphy
I didn’t really notice how much I needed my blood brother until he moved to South Africa. Even though he’s younger than I, there’s a presence that he provided that made me feel protected; like if some ish really hit the fan, I had someone to call who could help me to feel safe. Thankfully, over the course of the first couple of years that he was gone, some “love brothers” came into the world. And when I tell you that they don’t play about me — I mean, at all.
A good example of this is when my house burned down back in December of 2021. Two immediately sent me a laptop (because for a writer, that’s like not having a car). One sent me the deposit for a new place to stay. Another came to check on me for a week straight. I can’t tell you how many mini-sermons I got on how to legally proceed with my landlords. Bottom line, they held me down and didn’t even give it a second thought. And although my girlfriends had my back as well, they were coming more from a nurturing stance, while my male friends were more protective.
Another example. Earlier this year, I had to drive to another state to sue the person I bought my car from (heads up: a meditator told me that Kentucky has some of the strictest as-is laws in the country). Long story short, the dealer assured me of a feature that wasn’t there. Anyway, I asked one of my male friends to drive me, and even though we took my car, he was like, “Let me drive” — and I had no problem with that. He does it for a living; we had to leave while it was still dark outside, and he knew that I was kind of tired. There was a natural “let me cover you” energy about him that we didn’t need to be dating for it to show up — he’s a good man who knows how to take care of ALL of the women in his life. I love that for me.
One more example. One time my car didn’t start, and I didn’t know what to do. I had to leave it in a random parking lot and, so I called a male friend for some advice. All he said was, “I got it. I’ll call you later.” By that evening, he drove it to me. He had a mechanic friend of his put a new alternator in, and he didn’t even charge me for it. He was like, “Girl, you need to get a man, but until you do, I got you.”
When all you have in your life are guys who you date, sometimes it’s hard to discern what their motives may be. Plus, if things don’t work out, you’re back to figuring everything out on your own. When you have male friends, though? There’s no slick ish. Plus, they’re not going anywhere. You’ve got brothers from another mother who acts just like that. And it’s awesome.
5. They Are Awesome Friend (or Stand-In) DatesGiphy
One of my male friends, folks have been thinking that we’re screwing on the low for years now. He’s a cutie. He can sing his butt off. I tell him often that if I could turn his speaking voice into a person, that part of him (and that part alone) would be my sneaky link, for sure (that voice!). Yet nah — nothing even remotely sexual/physical has happened to us beyond a hug “hello” and a hug “good-bye.” And while I wouldn’t say that we’re exactly “platonic” because he sometimes jokes that “Shellie, you are like a sister, but you still ain’t my sister” and that holds a bit of subtext (check out “Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'”), we’ve got almost two decades under our belts — at this point, ain’t nothin’ finna go down. It just doesn’t “click” that way. And we are both so good with that.
That doesn’t mean that we’re not each other’s kick-it buddies, though. Aside from the fact that we try to have a lunch or dinner date once a month, if there’s something we want to do or a place we want to go to, we don’t hesitate to take each other as an unofficial date. That’s because we know that it will make the event more fun and less stress-filled because there is no extra stress, pressure, or expectations. We also know how to dress up or down, be casual or corporate — y’all get it.
Yeah, if you’ve got something coming up, you don’t want to go alone, and the idea of a traditional date seems like it would be “too much,” a guy friend is the perfect solution. It has worked out for me (with the guy whom I’m referring to and others) for years now.
6. Platonic Love Is Really SpecialGiphy
Clearly, I believe that men and women can be “just friends” (check out “Unpopular Opinion: Men And Women CAN Really Be 'Just Friends'”). And although the genuine definition of platonic means that there is NO sexual interest on ANY level (which is why I think that word is used too loosely), those types of relationships can exist — and they are truly one of a kind.
Final example. I’ve got four male friends who I absolutely adore. We hang out. We can talk on the phone for hours. We send each other stupid clips throughout the day. And HELL NAW, we ain’t gonna date each other. Like…ever. We talk enough about relationships that we get how and why other people are attracted to us — and still, that doesn’t mean we want to fit into those categories. We like each other. We love each other. We trust and respect each other. We enjoy each other. As friends, and that’s all it’s ever gonna be.
However, because I am a woman and they are men, we bring something into each other’s worlds as far as opinions, perspectives, and insights that no one of the same sex can. As their friend (for instance), I tell them when a woman has some ulterior motives that they haven’t even thought about, and as men, they tell me when a guy is just wanting to hit, no matter how cryptic their approach may be.
OH, HOW I LOVE MY MALE FRIENDS. They make my world so much richer. Plus, they’re great reminders that you don’t have to be sexual with a man in order for you to be intimate with him. Men are far more layered than that (contrary to whatever you may hear in the media).
So, if you don’t have any strictly male friends, I’m hoping that this will encourage you to at least consider getting some (or hell, at least one). And if you do, do what I do and treat your male friends to a meal sometimes, just to say “thank you”. Men who’ve got your back, just because, without wanting you to get on your back? Sis, they deserve a seasonal meat-‘n-three or somethin’. Wouldn’t you say? I WOULD.
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