Hi, I’m Ebuka, mostly known from Plantboy. I’m 33, and I’m a plant addict. I enjoy my company and constantly have conversations in my head. Nobody wants to be in there, I promise. I’ve always been very different than most guys; I mean, my favourite colour is pink. But in this country where non-conforming isn’t always applauded, it’s paying off for me. Being different has made me stand out.
So, your love for gardening didn’t start when you were younger?
No. But now that I’m thinking about it, when I was a child, after eating yam one time, I planted the head and was so surprised it grew even though it was bitter. I also hated fine arts as a child because I couldn’t draw, but I was told to draw a plant, and I did it so well I went from getting two over ten to nine over ten. In secondary school, my favourite subject was agriculture as well. I never had to read it because it came naturally to me. So to be fair, it’s always been there, just not encouraged.
As someone who used to fail agric, must be nice. When did your official gardening activities kick-off?
It kicked off in 2020, during the pandemic. I was on Twitter and saw lots of people getting plants, so I bought some to feel among. This happened at a point in my life when your boy lost his job. I wanted to japa, but that fell apart since we were in a pandemic!
Ngl, I was depressed and suicidal. So I bought a pencil cactus, and it gave me a sense of purpose. I went from not wanting to wake up to caring for my plants and being happy to see them do well. I started to read up about plants, and let me tell you, they’re addictive. You can’t just get one. I have 200 plus plants now.
I’m so glad you could find comfort that way. But 200?
I just kept buying them. My Instagram followers were sick of me posting pictures of my plants and made me open a page for it, and that’s where I found a community of Nigerians like me. Fast forward to 2021. People kept reaching out to me to ask questions, which made me start posting helpful information I’d learnt. What took it to the next level was when I made a funny reel and got many views.
People reached out for plant installations, asking to buy plants and for the soil I use, which I began to sell. My followers skyrocketed, and I decided to go into plants full-time, quitting my freelance video editing job. I don’t regret it; it has afforded me a better lifestyle. I’ve met interesting people and been to places I wouldn’t have believed I’d go. Look at me; I’m getting interviewed by Zikoko.
You’ve been doing such good work. Hard not to notice. How challenging has this journey been for you?
Aww, thank you. So, there’s a huge information gap for plant lovers in Nigeria. One significant challenge I had was soil. Before I got into plants, I thought you could just plant with any soil, but that’s not the case. A lot of the soil we get here isn’t great for growing plants indoors, which is how I started mixing my own soil.
Also, getting suitable plant accessories like pots and plant hangers is difficult. I keep telling people there’s a market for these things because people who’re into plants have disposable income and will spend it. When you’ve eaten, you’ll have money to buy plants.
Do you think it’s possible to enjoy being a plant person without money?
Yes too. Because as much as it requires you to spend a lot of money and can be very bougie, there’s a plant for everybody. Some plants sell for as low as ₦200 – ₦500. The more common the plant is, the cheaper it is; it’s just the quality won’t be great. It’s only when you want unique, uncommon plants that it costs a lot. I’ve seen a plant sell for ₦6m, and someone will still buy it.
You people are scaring me oh. How much is the most expensive plant you own?
I can’t give an exact figure, but it was above ₦80k. It gives me joy and makes me feel fulfilled, so please. And to be honest, the plant community in Nigeria is very welcoming. Where you’re from and how much you earn doesn’t matter. As long as you’re a genuine person who loves plants.
Is this community like a group chat or just people you follow?
There’s always been an offline community, especially for the older generation. The idea of an online community became a thing last year . There’s this “welcome to my garden” group on WhatsApp, and it’s primarily made up of older Nigerians who organise events and travel together, and it’s fun for them.
My friends and I want to build a community for younger people outside of Instagram. We are not a lot, but it’s tight-knit, and I’ve made some fantastic friends I can call and talk about plants for hours with.
Do Nigerians leave annoying comments on your page?
I’ve noticed when Nigerians see you’re passionate about something, they encourage you. Recently, I started making content around landlords and their reactions to me having so many plants, incorporating humour and personality because Nigerians like drama, and it paid off. I also realised they like greenery. They just don’t know until they see how it’s beautifully displayed. If only Lagos developers would incorporate it in their spaces.
Recently, someone in my comments section asked why I was “growing flowers” instead of growing things I can eat, and they came for him. I was shocked. The only problem is my exposure is low because it’s such a niche interest.
Does having a niche audience affect the earning power of your business?
The advantage of doing something different is you’re the first person people go to for guidance. I always tell people to add value to what they do because I charged for advice even when I had just 100 followers. Now, I do virtual and in-person consultations starting from ₦7500.
I also do installations for as high as ₦600k and as low as ₦100k. I give everything my all and get good results and good clientele. They hardly ever argue with my prices, mainly cause they can afford them. I don’t sell myself short, and at the same time, I don’t overprice.
What’s the most challenging thing about owning so many plants?
It’s a lot of work. You can spend the whole day nurturing them. When you have an extensive collection like I do, something will always need to be done. That’s why I started managing the number of jobs I take, so I don’t get overwhelmed and lose the fun side.
What’s the most common mistake you see plant owners make?
Growing cacti and succulents inside the house. That’s why they die; it’s too far from the nearest window, and they need a lot of light. They are not indoor plants. Please take them outside!
Have you ever killed a plant?
Of course! Every plant person has killed a plant. I can’t even count how many I’ve killed at this point. One time, I killed one of my most expensive plants. It didn’t even take up to three days, and I don’t know why. But that’s the thing; killing plants is part of the experience.
Gardening is not just seeing your plants thrive. You will struggle too. Just take it for what it is. Spending on plants taught me how to spend on myself. If I can spend ₦50k on plants, I can get that shawarma with my last ₦2k.
What else has gardening taught you?
I’ve also learnt not to get too attached because plants can just die, and you’d be depressed. When I first started, I used to be attached to my plants. One time, someone damaged the leaf of one of them, and I cried.
But I had to learn to let go; if my plants die, I’ll be fine. We’ll all die someday. Just enjoy things in the moment. Plants have also taught me patience because taking care of them tested my patience.
How fulfilled do you feel in all this?
I’m a very spiritual person, not religious, but I believe in God. There are indications in the bible that God loves nature and blesses people who care for it, and I’m a living testament to that. My life has completely changed financially, and while I’m happy with what I have now, I want more. I want to have my own home with a beautiful garden where I can plant a tree and just do green things. I want to travel, go on botanical tours and be on TV.
How do you plan to achieve these dreams?
I’ve been more intentional and ambitious. I shamelessly pitch myself more. I’ve started tagging large accounts to my posts because I want to get featured. I’d also like to get large-scale landscaping jobs so I’m strategically making content towards that. I now boldly call myself an influencer and plant icon too!
I just want my passion to take me as far as I want to go. There’s no timetable for success and achievements. My life only started to go upwards in my 30s. So I don’t usually get things when I want them, but when I do get them, they come in such abundance. I know whenever I achieve these dreams, they’ll come abundantly. Till then, I wait.