Larry and Shirley Bovshow in garden

Gardening for the Sexes: Do Men and Women Like Different Plants?

by / 19 Comments / 2661 View / February 25, 2008


Through my professional experience in landscape design, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a marked difference between the kinds of plants that men and women like to see in their gardens.

Don’t throw tomatoes at me for generalizing but I will stand behind my claim!

I want to hear from my EdenMaker readers.

 

Do Men Like Different Plants Than Women

Does my husband, Larry have a preference for certain plants because he is a male?

 

Some disclosure before we dive into this discussion:

My husband Larry has zero opinion about the plants used in our landscape.

He had MANY opinions about where the spa and pond were to be located but was mum about the plants!

So my claims are based on experience with my clients.

 

Plant Preferences According to the Sexes

Men prefer “hot colors” (reds, oranges, yellows, or  “just” green) over pastel colors and  are attracted to bold, architectural plants like palms,  bamboo, phormiums, agave’s, ornamental grasses and other “strappy plants.”

The “male garden” communicates in bold gestures with “very few words,”  a limited plant pallet that sometimes translates to a simple, lush green lawn.

 

Phormium plant

Strappy Phormiums …

Red hot poker plant

“Red Hot Pokers”…

 

Sago Palm in Container

and Sago Palms (any palm) are good examples of what I consider “manly plants.”

 

Shirley Bovshow in the garden

Do I favor specific types of plants because I’m female?

 

Female gardeners, by contrast usually appreciate the detail of a finely marked Columbine,  the gentleness of of a dainty bulb and the scent of a rapturous rose.

(Women are likely to be smiling in agreement or puking by now).

 

Mauve orchid planted outdoors

Gorgeous mauve orchid planted outdoors

 

Pinks, lavenders, peaches and other relaxing colors are favored by female gardeners, although I notice many women  are open to hot colors as well.

Men are less likely to fill their gardens with pastel colors.

 

Container garden with mixed perennials and annuals

“Feminine” mixed container garden

 

accent.jpg

Decorative touches belong in all gardens, but women tend to include them in their gardens more than men do.

“Female gardens”  feature edible plants as well as colorful and fragrant plants and many times, are a platform for  personal expression, artistry and whimsy.

 

 

Male and Female Common Ground in the Garden

Cucumber vine on a frame trellis for support

Both sexes can’t resist edible plants such as  this cucumber vine  growing on a trellis!

 

Commonalities between the sexes include  vegetable and fruit gardens and use of  native plants and ornamental grasses.

 

ornamental grass backlit by sun

Ornamental grasses are  “gender neutral” plants in my opinion.

 

Are these sweeping generalizations?

Of course, but they are only observations.

 

This is not an empirical study, so chill if you don’t agree!

I’m curious  about your opinion.

So what do you say?

 

State your sex, plant and color preferences as well as planting zone and “school me on the reality of gardening for the sexes” if you think I’m way off!

 

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19 Comment

  1. Hi Susan,
    So I’m not the only pro with the male/female plant preference opinion! Thanks for chiming in. I also agree with you that many times the woman makes the plant selections (at least in my projects).

  2. I have certainly noticed a difference between the kinds of plants the average man prefers v. the average woman. Interestingly, in my day job I work with plant breeders who are mostly men and they tend to gravitate towards “manly” plants like Agaves, foliage plants, and things with little color. I make a conscious effort to guide them towards plants that would be more marketable to women since we are the ones who do most of the buying after all. It’s a daily battle!

  3. Thanks for weighing in David. A florist? I had no idea you did this in the past.

    So you found men gravitate to some of the “feminine” colors and plants? I guess this is absolutely the case with many men, I was just making a generalization based on my experience designing gardens in my practice.

    Maybe I live in a macho area!
    Shirley

  4. Hi Shirley,

    Interesting post!

    I used to work as a florist, and I think the generalization about what the sexes like holds truer in that area than in the garden. Men and women do, in general, gravitate to distinctly different kinds of floral arrangements. But in the garden, I really haven’t found that to be the case so much.

    Some of the “manliest” gardening men I’ve known have enjoyed plants with “feminine” colors (i.e., pinks, purples, mauves, etc.). And many other gardening men go nuts over the sorts of under-the-radar plants that you can only appreciate if you take the time to look for subtle details.

  5. Bev, cute story! At least your husband gardens, I’m the only one with dirty hands in this family. On the flip side, my husband and kids love being out in the yard and do much of their reading, eating and relaxing with friends there.

  6. Shirley… yup, I know just what you mean and your post hit home with me. I am a retired graphic designer and that education influences me when choosing plants for my gardens. I tend to like blue and purple, as well as pastels, depending on which garden I’m doing. I like to accent with gold and a deep red here or there, together with white to punch things up a little. As for my husband, well, he is a great fan of red and yellow together… my least favorite combination. These are the colors of fast food restaurants. I don’t like to see them. Only exception is when my husband planted a bed of yellow and red tulips. These I can tolerate. My husband’s main consideration in buying plants is cost. He will buy ANYTHING on sale, whether it fits in with color schemes or not. And he loves nothing better than going around the yard dividing and transplanting. Again with no consideration to theme or light conditions. He really drives me nuts but I TRY to be patient. We split areas so he could have his own to control. But nooooo, he just can’t keep his transplants out of “my” areas. Oh, marigolds are one of his favorites. I just go around after him when he has planted more ground ivy to invade the other gardens, and pull it out. He’s generally a good sport about it all though. One time he went out and turned up all of my decorative weathered wood that I use at the base of many plants to help hold them up, and put every one of them on end. It looked as though I had a cemetery for dead wood! Oh… the joys of marriage. Thanks for the chance to vent and for your interesting post.

  7. Sean “Mad Man”- I especially wanted your report regarding bamboo, because that is what I consider a classic, “man plant!” Almost every man I’ve consulted with either asks for it or loves it once I introduce them to it. I have to admit though, it is one of my favorite plants too. I have a very “man-friendly” garden because I have lots of stone, bamboo and other large plants. You hit the nail on the head, Sean, “men look for problem-solving plants.” I think it is in their nature to want to solve problems- very adorable in my book!

    Pam, you and I are on the same side when it comes to personal garden tastes. Your garden sounds like mine, and yes, I have some female clients who ask for this type of garden as well. Much less though. Pam, what is your opinion about architectural plants versus more “fussy plants?” Have you ever noticed that sometimes people start out gardening with the “pretty flowers” and then move on later to the architectural and structural plants as they advance in the garden? I’ve noticed this to be a trend around here.

    Billy, go ahead and bash my theory, you are a drummer afterall! Thanks for your comments. Your Santa Barbara town is a great example of big Mediterannean plants as well as native plants all over the place. I wanted to hear from you because your area is a bit more homogeneous in this plant style and I figured both men and women were equally into them. In my urban and suburban Los Angeles it seems to be more eclectic. I’m not surprised to hear that the wife in your project example got her way- that also seems to be the way it works on my projects as well!

    Ferne- Thanks for dropping in. I went to your blog but couldn’t leave a comment because I have no google account. Anyway you can make your comment area more user friendly? There were lots of good posts I wanted to comment on, but didn’t. I love the fact that you are loading up your window area with grow pots.
    So, you are another nursery pro that observes similar behaviours in men and women gardeners.It’s good for us to understand general differences between the sexes, though of course we know, there are always exceptions to the rule.

  8. I work at a nursery in California (Zone 9) and I have noticed exactly what you are saying…men like the bold, bright colored plants more often than women. You seem to have hit my observations on the nose. Men also go for spikey plants more than women. Women will go for a spikey flower like delphinium or foxglove, but men usually like the flax and grassy plants (again, low maintenence). Women want to water, fertilize and dead head more than men and will often kill things with too much love.

    Great post! Really fun to read.

  9. Shirley – most provocative. Of course, your observations are generalizations but I think that in a ‘pop psych’ way, you have the start of a provable hypothesis. One of the challenges I always face as a professional designer are husband/wife teams that fall into your state profiles. The fun and challenge is to be part marriage counselor and still a good designer – finding the compromises, breaking ties and finding something for everyone.

    However, just to bash your theory with the exception to the rule, I’ve just completed a small hillside design where the estrogen contingent was all about bold, broad combinations of succulents and Leucospermums, while her spousal support unit was trying to soften things up with a bit more soft floral color. She won!

    Thanks for inviting me over to play.

  10. Shirley- You are right. We experiment some too, but I like to buy what I know how to take care of. I prefer to grow plants that will flourish and look beautiful all summer long here. We can’t get anything too delicate or it will croak in the extreme temperatures we end up having up here.

    I sometimes laugh that it seems like we share a brain (not because we’re dumb, we just seem to think alike).

  11. Well, I don’t know if I agree. I’ve bought plenty of agaves and other structural plants myself. Going for both yin and yang, as you might say, I like to pair them with billowy salvias and “feminine” roses. I also design gardens for others, and plenty of women request architectural plants here in Austin.

    I have often said that only men buy bromeliads, however. 😉

  12. Shirley,

    In my experience you are right on. My bamboo clientele is by far male 25 – 55. When I grew succulents and Japanese Maples, most customers were women, although men like the maples for “bonsai.” Maybe it a dominance over nature thing? Now many of the male customers are solely focused on the utility of bamboo (screening a neighbor, or shading the garden) whereas women customers appreciate the varietal beauty of bamboo (a variegated leave, a wine red culm or other distinctive feature). Great post, thanks for calling me out, happy to contribute.

    Sean

  13. Okay, I want to hear from Trey at the Blogging Nurseryman and my buddy Mad Man at the Bamboo Geek. What are men and women buying at your nurseries?
    Don’t be shy-I want to hear from everyone else too!
    Shirley

  14. Les- Thanks for the visit! I really appreciate hearing from a nursery pro because you, (like Anna) are out there with the garden shopper and have an opportunity to observe male/female plant preferences. I have a feeling you and I have noticed a similar pattern. Do you think its because some of these palms, yuccas and the like are bigger and heavier and guys don’t mind picking them up? Or do you think its because guys like to make a statement with less words and less but bolder plants- (my analogy).

    Anna- Now that’s an answer if I’ve ever seen one! I see you;ve got your take on the sexes too. Men don’t want to fuss with too many details and they are less emotionally invested in their plant selection. I can agree with you on that. Sometimes I feel my male clients just want the easiest plant that will fill the largest space so that they don’t have to make too many decisions. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all men- just in general.

    Your insight on women gardeners I think is spot on. Is it because our nature is to be “EdenMakers?” We want to create our Edens, our sanctuaries, our nests and place our heart and stamp on whatever we bring into our home and gardens. I know I’m that way and I agree that I like to feel that what I have is unique in some way or significant to me. What woman wants to wear the same dress as someone else at a party? Not me!

    Cinj, You and your husband would be dream clients. Your solidarity is truly rare! Usually the couple is at odds about plants. I notice also that men tend to care more about the details of the hardscape and construction materials than women. I rarely take a man out for garden decor shopping, but women love this part!
    Cinj, you and your husband give me the impression that you are straightforward and very commited to favorite plants and buy what you feel “works” for your yard. Is this true?

  15. My husband actually likes to dally with me for hours picking out plants (as long as the kids are behaving), although I admit he’s a bit unusual in that regard. I guess neither of us is too picky when it comes to colors as long as they look good with our other plants. We tend to like the compact, dense flowers to the tall spindly ones but we vary as to the color schemes we go with.

    We tend to like impatiens (and double), pansys (small), begonias (and double), geraniums, and petunias (regualr and wave). I have bought others, but I tend to stick with these as a general rule.

    We are in zone 3.

  16. What a great topic Shirley! I agree with you and will also add:

    Men do not want to shop for hours like women do. When I see a man in the nursery, he wants you to get straight to the facts. He wants to know it in the shortest explanation. He wants to know how much maintenance is involved. How big will it get? Will it shed? And they will buy whatever you suggest to keep it healthy. They don’t mind the soil amending. They are more likely to buy an overbearing structure for the garden–like a large orb or something angular and really makes a statement. They want to get in and get out! I watch them get out of their car and I know right away what is on their agenda. They walk with a determined walk and come right up to you and just start right in–no..how are you, no asking for lots of possibilities—just get er done attitude. What they don’t know is that I’m totally ready for them and move at a fast pace–placing everything in their cart and steer them to an arrangement before they have time to say no. Men are a quick sell.

    Now women:
    They want to know every possible way to arrange a plant and how many possible ways there is to do it. They want non stop bloomers. They can tell a dark blue from a medium dark blue. You know when you are losing the interest of a woman cause she will break her concentration with you. When that happens–I regroup and start with another wow container until I know what she is trying to achieve. Women have a harder time knowing what they want cause they want a feeling from it. A feeling like–I have something no one else has. They will always buy if you make a connection on an emotional level. I read their every movement and watch where their eyes go. If they pause on a plant–then I take off on all the different ways it can be grouped. While building this arrangement for them with that special plant—-I wait for the last plant to be placed in the arrangement—the one that makes their eyes tear up…….then they smile and you know you got them. I sometimes see frustrated women placing a hodge podge of plants on their carts and they look frustrated!! If you quietly gather a few that you know will pull their arrangements together and approach this type quietly—-and let’s just say—stand beside them and say—you know, I am making an arrangement like yours in the shop and I was putting these with it…what do you think?? Then Shirley—it becomes their idea and they love it. Women want to know that they did it and no one else has what they have. It will be an important part of making their house a home.

    This is why I work in the gardening world—it is most gratifying to me to see my client’s face when it finally clicks. It is most rewarding. I saw the same faces on my students when I taught school. When they finally got something you were trying to teach—it is pure joy to see it happen. It’s addicting. So I’m addicted to selling what the customer wants.

    Great subject!!!!!! Can’t wait to see what you have to say about that!

  17. I am a manager at a nursery in zone 7b, but live in zone 8a in the southeastern coastal area of Virginia. I would say that there is a definate difference in what men buy and what women buy, but there are plenty of exceptions to the rule. I have never sold a hardy palm, agave or a yucca to a woman. I would say that 80% of the perennials and annuals that I sell go home with women. About 2/3rds of my fruit trees go home with men. Camellias and azaleas are a 50/50 split or are a joint decision. Boring foundation shrubs are mostly for men. Shade tree buyers are mostly men, and when a couple is looking, it is the man that has the final say. Roses are purchased by both sexes and the color preferences are usually stereotypical, however a lot of men buy rose bushes for their wives and in these cases usually pick “feminine” colors. Hydrangeas are mostly bought by women. Lawn care items are almost entirely male. Veggies are a 50/50 split.

    A very interesting topic, thank you.

  18. What do you like Kylee?

  19. My husband likes rather flashy and unusual flowers, but if it’s fussy in the least, he wants no part of it. He wants no-care plants.

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