What’s the point of Boys with Plants? Who cares?

Hilary Rose
March 28, 2019

If ever there were proof of the wondrous pointlessness of Instagram, Scott Cain is it. His feed, Boys with Plants, is a thing of rare and wonderful pointlessness: it is photographs of men and plants. It’s very silly and oddly sweet, with a hefty dose of homoeroticism.

Cain started by posting pictures of the plants on his balcony at home in Australia. He appears to be fond of large Swiss cheese plants, ferns and cacti. He discovered a whole community of online plant lovers keen to discuss the optimal soil, light and pot conditions for each plant. From there, he had the revelation that the one thing better than photos of plants on their own would be plants with their owners, many of whom are buff and scantily clad. Thus Boys with Plants came into being, an Instagram feed that has 120,000 followers and which has, inevitably, spawned a book: Boys with Plants: 50 Boys and the Plants They Love.

“I should have known that an account about boys and plants would find an audience,” Cain writes in his introduction. The book opens with Aaron, a 28-year-old investment banker from Philadelphia. Aaron is young, good-looking and naked. “To Aaron,” the text reads, “size does count — he thinks the bigger the plant, the better.” Aaron protects his modesty with an artfully placed fur throw and a baseball cap, and expresses a preference for big, leafy plants such as Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) and fiddle-leaf figs.

We learn that Jan, 30, from Slovenia, hopes one day to have a big house with big windows that he can fill with plants. Mauricio, from Sao Paolo, advises talking to plants. “It will do them and you well,” he says, adding: “If you are the sort of person who forgets their obligations, choose plants that require little water.” Wise words.

Trevor in San Francisco does yoga surrounded by his menagerie of plants from the Tillandsia genus. These, we are informed, have no roots and therefore require particular attention, so presumably they are best avoided by those who forget their obligations.

The book has advice on “choosing the right plant for you”. There’s a chapter on keeping your plant alive and, should you find this challenging, a helpful list of the top ten plants that are difficult to kill. These include Sansevieria and Monstera deliciosa, which may or may not be the reason why Aaron in Philadelphia chose the latter. Finally, there’s a helpful alphabetical list of the boys and their Instagram handles. It’s kind of like Grindr, but with plants. They could call it Gardnr.

Boys with Plants by Scott Cain (Modern, £9.99) @Boyswithplants