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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Featured image by Look Studio/Shutterstock
Originally published August 20, 2020
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Victoria Monét has had an incredible year. Thanks to the success of the widely popular “On My Mama” that went viral, the singer/ songwriter’s Jaguar II album debuted in the top 10 of Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart. She also went on to headline her own sold-out tour. So, when the MTV VMAs happened in September, everyone was surprised to learn that Victoria’s team was told that it was “too early” for the “Smoke” artist to perform at the award show. However, a couple of months later, the mom of one received seven Grammy nominations, including “Best R&B Album” and “Record Of The Year.”
Victoria is currently in London and stopped by The Dotty Show on Apple Music and shared how she feels “validated” after being dismissed by the VMAs.
“It really does feel nice and validating because, in my head, the reason why I wanted to be a performer at the VMAs or award ceremonies like that is because I felt like I am at the place where I should. I would work really hard to put on the best show that I could, and I was excited to do so,” she said.
“And I guess the best way to describe it for me is like when you're like on a sports team, and the coach is like, ‘No, you gotta sit this one out.’ When they finally put you in, and then you score all these points, and it feels like that feeling. You're like, yes, I knew it wasn't tripping, but I knew I worked hard for this, and so it's been super validating to just have these accolades come after a moment like that, and I know the fans feel vindicated for me.
While her fans called the VMAs out on their decision, the “Moment” singer kept it cute and is still open to performing at the iconic award show. “I feel no ill towards them because it's just maybe that's just truly how they felt at the time, but I hope their mind has changed,” she admitted.
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Feature image by Amy Sussman/WireImage for Parkwood