Male & Female Plants

Male & Female Plants

Are your smoke trees smoke-free? Are your hollies not berry berried? It’s possible that you need “the opposite sex” in your garden. Smoke trees and holly are two of the plants that are dioecious. This means that there are separate male and female plants and that in order to produce fruit you will need both male and female plants. Although there are many plants that are dioecious most of the time it doesn’t matter to homeowners if they have males or females. On Cape Cod, however, we want our hollies and Skimmia to have red berries and our smoke trees to get smokin’!

If you don’t care about the fruit than there is no reason to plant male and female plants…it’s not that these plants need the opposite sex to live. If you don’t have berries or seeds it’s possible that your plant is male or that you have a female plant and need a male for pollination. You can tell if your holly is male or female by looking at the flowers. You may need a magnifying glass, but once you get “up close and personal” with your holly flowers you’ll see that the males have four tiny, yellow stamens in the center and the females have what looks like a small, green raised center.

When shopping for a smoke tree look for plants that are in flower in early June and be sure to purchase one with smoke and one without. These can be planted next to each other so that they grow as one plant if desired.

A smoke bush is one of the plants that is either male or female.


  1. Karen on July 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I have a smoke tree that is about seven years old. This year I got beautiful blooms but no smoke. Is that because mine is a male tree? How do I pick a female tree at the nursery in early spring? I thought the trees had to be mature before smoking. Your help would be appreciated.

    • CLFornari on July 12, 2013 at 9:59 am

      It could be that you have a male or it could be that you have a female and no male to pollinate. It’s impossible to tell which unless the plant is just starting to bloom – when that happens you can look with a hand-lens and see if the flower has a pistil (female) or just stamens (male). We don’t get our plants in labeled as to male and female, so if you want the opposite sex you’ll have to find plants in the nursery that are in bloom and get “up close and personal” with the blooms.

  2. Sandra Bonner on July 27, 2022 at 7:18 pm

    My smoke tree has not had any blooms since I have lived here. (4 years)
    How can I tell if it is a male or female?

    • CLFornari on August 1, 2022 at 8:57 am

      Both male and female smoke trees flower, but the blooms on the males are larger and showier. Smoke trees bloom on “old wood” – that is, growth that was there the previous summer. So if it is pruned much in either fall or spring you won’t have flowers, whether it’s a male or female.

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