‘It’s OK to Slow Down’: The Story Behind TikTok’s Plant-Growing Guru, @Creative_Explained

Updated: Jun. 03, 2022

This fan-favorite influencer with 6 million followers shares how nature restored his spirit in tough times. Here we explore how that's made him one of social media's most-loved personalities.

“I’ve always been upbeat, but I haven’t always been happy”

If you follow Armen Adamjan—better known as @creative_explained to his TikTok and Instagram fans—then you’re already familiar with his high-energy style of education about the Zen of gardening.

But about this mega-watt master of plant-growing and sustainability hacks, there’s also a lot you might not know. “I mean I’ve always been upbeat,” Adamjan shared in an exclusive interview with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest, “but I haven’t always been happy.”

If that seems surprising, this might, too: Adamjan didn’t intend to make a career of horticulture. Now the author of Don’t Throw It Out and Don’t Throw It Out 2, he was born in Armenia before his family moved to Denmark, where he lived until age 14. When the family then moved to U.S., Adamjan took up filmmaking in Rhode Island and Boston and then moved to California to try his luck in the film industry. “I was focusing on what made me happy,” the now 32-year-old says. But, like most anyone who’s ever pursued a creative career, he tells us: “I hit some low points in my life where things just weren’t moving. I started doubting whether I should do filmmaking or not.”

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Don’t throw it out

A year-long journey across the U.S. helped him soul-search. “I did a road trip three or four years ago to all 50 states. It took me 13 months to complete, and I really bonded with nature. There’s so much beauty in the world,” he says, “in the U.S. alone. Everywhere I went were different people, different cultures, but people were still dealing with the same issues.

“Seeing all the beauty around me and seeing people struggling and upset or sad or stressed out—I just wanted to translate what I was seeing into their minds. That became my goal: to try to help the world to open their eyes.”

In 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, a friend suggested Adamjan should try TikTok. “I already had Instagram and Snapchat and YouTube, so I said fine, I’ll do one TikTok video.”

That one try changed everything. “That same day I was in the kitchen about to chop off the bottom of a green onion, and I showed how you can [use that food scrap to] grow more green onions. It was a 50-second clip. It went viral instantly.”

Adamjan says the more he taught people, the more his own wonder for plants grew. “I find it fascinating that from one little seed, you can grow vegetables and fruits, taking complex knowledge that people think is complicated. Most of gardening and growing plants just isn’t really that hard. Most of it is waiting.”

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Plant care is a form of self-care

Today, Adamjan says, what was once a social media experiment is now a self-care ritual. “People start [their morning] with the phone, which starts the day with chaos. I wake up and spend 30 minutes with the plants, and then I start my day. I check the progress. I water them, I check if they have disease. Gardening and plants are not just about eating the fruits and vegetables. It takes me away from the fast pace. It brings me to the present moment.”

In an effort to help more of the public understand that, Adamjan is preparing to launch a first-ever initiative he calls the 1,000 Plant Project. “I’m sprouting 1,000 seeds—tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers—and planting them in little cups. I’m going to be outside on the street just giving them out: ‘Take one and grow it.’” His goal? “I’m hoping by giving away 1,000 plants that I grew myself that it might inspire people out there to take them home and plant them and grow them. ‘Why is this guy giving away free plants?’ Once it clicks in their minds, they might think twice before throwing it out. They might go home and feel bad that I went through the work to do it.” His hope is that the response will lead to a wider campaign. “I’m hoping to do this different locations around the world. I’ll schedule a tour where I’ll give out plants. That little push could be that little cup.”

Adamjan is aware of what he’s up against: the practical logistics of people’s lives. “People are running around, they have busy lives: ‘This looks cool but I don’t have the time.’ But if you have time to put on a Netflix TV show or movie, it doesn’t take that long—maybe five minutes, three minutes, then just waiting. People are discouraged by gardening and they think they need a lot. People live in apartments and don’t have a yard.”

Over Zoom with us, he points to a plant whose growth process he hacked by growing it up a stake in his flat. “Look at this little pot: 15, 20 cucumbers. This cucumber plant usually grows along the ground because it gets heavy.” For this and other plants, Adamjan says, “This stuff I’m teaching is not new knowledge, it’s been done for thousands of years. I’m just making it simple and trying to tweak the process,” he says, to make growing accessible in a variety of environments and “encourage people to start gardening. To have more peace in their minds.”

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“Growing really changes you.”

“If every human on the planet just grew one plant,” Adamjan says, “just think about abundance of food we would have. World hunger would end because we’d all have enough food. People think they need to go to supermarkets, but . . . when you start growing your own plants, you start to appreciate the time you put in and the amount of work you had to put in. Which in turn makes you think twice before throwing something out.”

That perspective, he says, has shifted his whole life. “Growing . . . totally changes you. It really changes you. I can’t not be happy. It’s just a joy you get, I can’t even describe it. It’s OK to slow down.”

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