Hilton Carter got his green thumb about a decade ago during a trip to Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.
He went to a garden cafe and was captivated by its lush foliage and cascading greenery.
“I had never seen anything like it,” he recalled.
Last Friday, Carter launched a collection of plants and plant accessories with Target — a first for the retail giant.
For the native Baltimorean, the collection is even more special because of the impact he hopes it will have on Black children in this country.
“For me it is a sign that everyone is able to see me and those that look like me can create opportunities regardless of what others say we can do. We can create whatever we want,” said Carter, 41. “For a kid to walk into a Target store and possibly see a picture of me, that says so much.”
The pandemic has resulted in many Americans discovering their green thumbs. And Carter, a “plantfluencer” with 483,000 Instagram followers, is the perfect ambassador.
As millions of Americans found new ways to spruce up the interiors of their homes during the pandemic, plants took on newfound importance.
A study, published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, found that interacting with indoor plants reduced stress among participants. And research conducted by NASA found that plants clear the air of toxic chemicals.
Target is looking to tap into the trend with this limited-edition collection. The modern and approachable offerings include both live and faux plants and accessories “designed to spread joy and provide guests and their homes the ultimate opportunity to flourish this spring,” according to Target.
Carter’s collection includes more than 65 products ranging in price from $5 to $130. Most of the items are less than $30. Hilton Carter for Target will be available on Target.com and in select Target stores.
Unsurprisingly, Carter recommends the entire collection, but he is partial to the terrariums, hanging wall planters, an accordion planter and a ceramic watering can. His new book, “Wild Creations,” is also part of the collection.
Searches for plants on Target.com have increased by more than 300% over the last year — a clear indicator that guests want to bring some of the outdoors inside to brighten up their space, according to Target executive Jill Sando.
“As people have spent more time at home over the past year, our guests are increasingly looking for ways to add more comfort and personality to their surroundings,” explained Sando, the retailer’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.
“We wanted to identify a partner who could bring something special to Target and deliver a collection that allows guests to easily and affordably refresh any room in their home,” she said. “This partnership with Hilton Carter does just that, while celebrating the arrival of spring with a renewed sense of optimism.”
The collection is not without controversy. This month, Detroit-based Corbe Ceramics took to Instagram alleging that Carter’s new collection copied pieces that it made in the past.
Neither Carter nor Target responded to requests for comment when asked about the allegations.
Carter was known to Al Hutchinson, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, for his work during the pandemic — particularly when he led a virtual demonstration that addressed plant care.
“It’s tremendously exciting but no surprise that a Baltimore creative ambassador like Hilton Carter is blazing a trail by creating a new partnership with a retail giant like Target,” Hutchinson said. “Baltimore is a beacon for young urban explorers and creative entrepreneurs.”
Although Carter said that plants have always had a moment, he concedes they have grown in popularity during the pandemic.
“Most people found themselves locked in a space that felt stale. They wanted to connect with nature,” said Carter, who turned his social media attention to his interior and plant styling in 2016.
By 2019, he quit his job as a video director and editor at a local ad agency to devote his attention to his plant-based business.
“There is a bit of comfort and joy tied to nurturing living things,” Carter said. “You want to bring in that greenery and life.”
Interacting with plants will leave you feeling “creative, and refreshed,” he added. “It makes you feel like you have achieved something — making a plant thrive. That’s joy.”
Carter said his mother, who now lives in North Carolina, was always a fan of decorating the interior of her home. But she was never a plant person.
“She did not know how to care for plants. [But] she did see the importance of greenery,” he recalled. “She was a true investor in faux plants throughout the home.”
And while Carter’s collection includes faux plants, he encourages the public not to avoid live ones.
“They should treat every single plant like it’s a living thing,” he said. “Whatever you nurture, nurtures you back.”