Plant mom is bringing Mother Nature home
Monai Nailah McCullough teaches others about the life-enhancing nature of caring for houseplants.
Apied piper of the millennial houseplant movement, “Plant Mom” Monai Nailah McCullough has nurtured communities – first in New York, and now in Amsterdam – where watering schedules and wellness rituals are given equal weight.
Self-proclaimed “Plant Mom” Monai Nailah McCullough first made the transition from green-thumbed hobbyist to professional horticulturist when she still lived in New York City and worked in visual merchandising for fashion brands. As a native New Yorker, she hadn’t grown up surrounded by greenery; nonetheless, she felt an intuitive understanding of how to care for plants – most of the time. “When I first started getting into it, I killed a lot of plants,” she admits with a laugh. With each failed houseplant, however, came newfound knowledge. “It encouraged me to keep going and [to learn] how not to do that again.”
Fast-forward seven years and McCullough has over 150 plants in her brood – “a lot of children to look after,” she notes. A career in visual merchandising has now been swapped for her own business, Plant Mom, which launched in 2018 when she relocated to Amsterdam. Twice a month, she leads hands-on workshops
that introduce her community to the basics of urban plant care, from repotting to planting them in upcycled materials. One client, Soho House, has commissioned a series of workshops that have gradually progressed in complexity; the most recent taught kokedama, a centuries-old Japanese botanical art that places ornamental plants into little balls of moss-covered soil.
Alongside these commitments, McCullough conducts private consultations on the design configuration and maintenance of indoor plants. Her previous professional experience has proved useful: one installation in a private residence saw a quarter of the property’s kitchen wall transformed into a lush sheet of greenery, while another project turned an empty space above a staircase into a riotous splash of colour, with locally grown plants potted in recycled milk jugs.
“I find a lot more joy and enthusiasm when I work with individuals in their homes, helping people create a sacred space with their plants,” McCullough says. She describes the community that has sprung up around Plant Mom as composed of young professionals, most of whom are interested in improving their wellbeing. Plants, she believes, provide an opportunity for self-development.
“Caring for plants is the best way to learn how to care for yourself,” she says. “If you identify why you can’t keep your plants alive, you can also identify a lot of things that may be lacking in your own life... Once you begin to collect plants, you make better lifestyle choices and more conscious decisions.”
McCullough has proved an appealing poster girl for millennial gardening. Her Instagram account often shows her standing amid a jungle of greenery – a hip urbanite with peroxide-blond cropped hair who has carved out a natural existence in a man-made metropolis.
“What I try to help people understand is that living in a city does not mean you are not in nature,” she says. “Everything we do is nature; we are nature. Having plants is only an extension of that.”
“Caring for plants is the best way to learn how to care for yourself. If you identify why you can’t keep your plants alive, you can also identify a lot of things that may be lacking in your own life...”