One of the most notable symbols in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun is Mama's plant. The plant represents Mama's dream of owning a house with a garden.
She tells Ruth that she has always wanted a house and garden of her own, and the plant is the closest she has ever come to having one.
The plant is feeble and does not get enough sun. Although it does not thrive, it somehow manages to live and survive in spite of the less-than-ideal conditions of its environment. Much like the plant, Mama's dream is also feeble. At times, her goal of owning a home seems hopeless and unattainable.
Despite the many obstacles in her way, Mama keeps hope alive that she will one day own a home, just as she keeps the plant alive under imperfect conditions. She nurtures the plant as she nurtures her hopes and aspirations.
Mama compares the plant to her children, Beneatha and Walter. She says her son and daughter are spirited and much like her plant, manage to survive under difficult circumstances. The plant does not get enough sunlight, just as her children live without the advantages afforded to many others. Mama's children and her plant are testaments to her indomitable spirit and caring nature.
At the conclusion of the play, Mama's dream is finally realized. Beneatha asks her mother why she wants to bring the shabby, pathetic-looking plant to the new house and Mama replies, "It expresses ME!" Before leaving the apartment forever, Mama takes a last look around, as the plant sit on the living room table. She leaves the apartment and returns seconds later to get her plant. This suggests that Mama wants to bring a reminder of where she came from and a symbol of her once seemingly impossible dream to her new home.