In the summer of 2020, when we were all living in a collective feeling of malaise over our country's racial tensions bubbling to the surface amidst a grim backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, I spoke with Christopher Griffin for the first time. Griffin is the ferocity behind the moniker Plant Kween, a New York City-based plant expert caring for a collection of 200-plus house plants who utilizes Instagram as a digital diary to educate the masses, theatrical flair included. If Plant Kween's bold, fashion-forward frocks and cheek-to-cheek poses with verdant tropical plants don't conjure up fantasies of being in Bali, they certainly make one wonder, Could I become a plant parent too?
Recently, I sat down with Griffin again to talk about his latest multi-leafed endeavor, a new book called You Grow, Gurl!, published by HarperCollins. “The book was a truly humbling process," Griffin says. "I wasn't sure if I was ever going to write a book in my lifetime or at least have the opportunity, the time, and the space to do so. So when HarperCollins reached out, I took it as a sign."
"I really wanted to exist as unapologetically and as authentically as I couldthroughout this entire book process."
If it was a surprise to Griffin, it wasn't to many others. Over the last two years, Plant Kween's trajectory has been akin to the blooming of Amorphophallus Titanum—as in, Plant Kween has become a rare specimen of genuine positivity in the current social media zeitgeist. Now, Plant Kween is everywhere. Dozens of the most-read publications have interviewed them. They have created unique and entertaining content for outlets including HGTV, Skillshare, and Architectural Digest. They even walked the runway at New York Fashion Week.
To approach the book project, Griffin got reacquainted with the written work of Black femme writers like Audre Lorde and Maya Angelou. “I really wanted to exist as unapologetically and as authentically as I could throughout this entire book process," he says. "The goal really was to take folks on a very playful and colorful journey, and shine light on a different way that we can engage with nature.”
Visually, You Grow, Gurl! makes my unofficial list of the Top Five Coffee Table Books of 2022, but the book is worth more than a skim—your mind will expand with the possibilities Griffin reveals on how to turn your home into a flourishing ecosystem. Plus, Griffin's refined stylistic writing choices bring new life to an old format. One example: colloquial spellings of words (as in the title's gurl) add a more conversational tone, revealing a refreshing departure from our grandparents' stodgy how-to books.
You'll also find odes to New York's hottest plant shops like The Sill and Tula Plant and Design, both of which are spaces that helped Christopher bud from a young plant parent into the blooming Plant Kween we know today.
At 224 pages, You Grow, Gurl! also includes under-the-radar elements of a self-help book. Aside from ultimately imparting practical wisdom on how to be a functioning plant parent, Griffin reveals how the plant-care journey is a self-care journey, too. Interspersed with watering tips and appropriate light are stopping points for breathing techniques, and even one page dedicated to one of the best playlists I have seen in a while.
With the book bound and on shelves, I had to ask if there would ever be a brick and mortar shop in Plant Kween's future. Alas, although Griffin has thought about a possible plant boutique, saying, "It would be a mixture of plants and a speakeasy where local artists could come and share their work. Maybe a little late-night-jazz-mood added in there." Though this may not quite be in the cards just yet, we can only hope.
In the meantime, join us in diving into You Grow, Gurl and celebrating the great indoors.