By Sherri Kolade
Every morning, Helen McDowell of Romulus is in her element.
After the bubbly 26-year-old wakes up she all but immediately goes to her 30-plus plants, tending to them, talking to them, nourishing them, and a whole lot more.
McDowell, who talks to her plants and shows them love every day, wants to eventually own 56 plants, which represents the age her mother was when she passed.
Surrounded by her plants, which started with one in college six years ago, McDowell said that being a plant connoisseur as a Black woman was a journey that began in admiration of a friend’s passion.
“It started in college — my best friend, Sarah, she is the one who gave me my first plant,” McDowell said, adding that her friend gave her a similar plant to one that she owned. “She [my plant] has been with me six years — once I figured out how to green thumb with her, I started buying more and more plants. I think I have 30 plants.”
McDowell is one of many of the OGs in a growing plant movement that has Black women taking up residence as plant mamas.
According to an article from Elle, a homegrown movement was formed before and during the pandemic that celebrated Black people, women in particular, and their relationship with plants, which blossomed, especially in 2020.
Plant Economy – already ahead of the game – is a semi-new online store that promotes a plant community that largely encompasses millennials, a growing demographic of Black women that are digging deep into gardening for wellness, a form of self-care and more.
Aaron Dawson and Bianca Burns, co-founders of Plant Economy, launched their popular online shop in July 2020 and sell handcrafted Detroit items.
Plants can be beneficial to those with certain breathing issues by acting as natural air purifiers. Plants, being sources of energy themselves, can also provide energy for planters. Helping to establish a routine, plants add life to a room while helping provide an outlet for stress.
“Plants enhance any space by offering a cleansed atmosphere, a pop of color, and ongoing healing simply through routine care. Pothos plants, for example, purify the air of toxins, like carbon monoxide, through photosynthesis. With a little TLC, they grow an abundance of bright, beautiful foliage in or out of the soil – a reminder that like plants, we can bloom anywhere we are planted,” Burns said previously.
While professions in botany, or the study of plants, is made up of only under three percent of African Americans, that three percent are listed as the highest-paid demographic. Black women are paving the way in this career field.
Companies including Plant Economy are geared at helping navigate new plant lovers through their first green experience and connect all aspects of planting.
The healing mechanisms in planting and gardening extend back to the ancestry of African people. Enriched in the makeup of Black culture, the Earth has always played a major role in the lives of African Americans. With the uptick of Black women joining the ranks, taking care of their green babies has become rewarding and a community experience.
Burns, who has a background in digital marking and graphic/floral design, told the Michigan Chronicle recently that her experiences led her to this point.
“I’ve always just had a creative spirit and nature and trying different things,” Burns said, adding that Dawson’s creative production company and design background is also a huge asset. “We teamed up to create Plant Economy … and we bonded over plants in general.”
Dawson and Burns typically suggest two plants for first-time plant parents wanting to step into the plant world: Snake (Sansevieria) plants and ZZ (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia) plants. Both plants are native to Africa.
“Not only do they fit perfectly in our signature 6” planters, but they are forgiving, low maintenance plants, requiring minimal light and overall care,” Burns said previously. “For extended plant life, all plant parents should practice spending quality time with their plants. Set aside time to love on your plants and do some research to reassure you are providing the care your greenery deserves. A quick Google search can help identify how a plant will thrive in any space, as well as appropriate watering schedules, sun-to-shade ratios, and soil mixtures needed to ensure your plants grow with you.”
Burns said growing up she’s always had a space for plants in her life and carried them with her wherever she moved since college. Years later she saw a void in plant-related accessories. “What we noticed was we had a hard time trying to find planters and overall plant décor that fit our personal aesthetic.”
She added that during her search she noticed numerous companies profiting off of Black movements and capturing certain phrases and putting them in quotes on plant pots.
“We were saying [if] we can’t find it … let’s create it ourselves,” she said.
Some of Plant Economy’s best sellers are planters and plant sets with apparel and accessories.
With phrases like, “talk growth to me,” “rooted in faith,” and “plant shorty,” many customers (Black and non-Black alike) enjoy the fruits of the company’s personalized designs. “Everything was curated by us, designed by us and handcrafted by us.
“People are very excited to have something to dress their plants up with and something that showed positivity. That is a big goal for us – spread wellness, prosperity and positivity not only through products but our community and work we do.”
For more information visit planteconomy.co.
Megan Kirk contributed to this report.