Your job is to figure out your plant’s ‘persona’

A flower is only one part of a plant’s personality, and this “Persona” can be the thing that separates any plant from others.

Plant personality: Who are you? And who are you pretending to be?

A flower is only one part of a plant’s personality, and this “Persona” can be the thing that separates any plant from others.

Each plant has a personality that reflects its desires, its likes, and its negative.

The size, shape, color, and fragrance of your flower, whether you like them small, plain, jumbo, curly or single, can be as telling as the number of petals; the shape of the flowers’ tips, whether they are vase-fed, bunched or straight; and their musky or sweet scent.

Your plants’ hidden desires and negative traits can be as varied as the diverse plant species in the wild. However, many individuals and places in our world incorporate plants into their everyday environment as a form of portmanteau — a blend or combination of two elements: shape, or the focus of the plant.

How do you know your plant is different?

Plants such as palms, lemon trees, cycads, red magnolias, and wild figs all share one trait: they typically are not bothered by plants and animals.

While the prickly, cat and butterfly-triggered clamgrass (Green teaaga speciosa) may attract “nests” and hostile wildlife, its flower, bristly leaves, and flickering yellow or orange hues are all hiding a predator.

My rosemary and hosta often thrive by switching from the exclusive display of their floral petals to “marking their territory” with rust, a filling or distinguishing mark. Their splashes of iridescent greens, blues, and yellows can help you identify them, but not everyone gets the hint.

My honey apple, or palmetto poplar, or my Mexican bittersweet (Granum pudica) or forsythia are always careful to be on guard against birds and small mammals. In the South, my green holly also regards birds and small mammals as a frequent threat.

When in danger of plant enemies, one might place covers on its large open flower surfaces.

On the other hand, narcissus’ slow, insignificant blooms on short stems — frequently marked by crystals, perfect for sweet late afternoon petals — can be held for days before falling. And our finely variegated euphorbias may stand alone in a sunny garden.

For the world of art, tropical plants are symbolic — sunflowers in pairs, lacy palms or miniatures of the signature pink of the florist’s bouquet, their delicate flower pots can be like windows that show water flowing through channels or a flotilla of masts or sails.

One species that owns all my credit cards is my bromeliad (Bromeliopsis canadensis), which is called a dragon’s tooth (because it leaves a small footprint behind as its male flower opens).

My farmyard vine (Porphyria ecclesiata) seems to like a cow’s milk pen because it has about the same color as cow’s milk and a little leathery smell. Its blue-green, white, or red flowers will float by from a petal of milk.

Take the correct leaf form and lastly, after feeding your petals and those of your favorite plant, observe carefully. If you notice the leaf becomes curled up as the flowers fade, have those leaves ground or bagged and returned to the garden. If they shrivel, you must replant or pay the price.

Annually, you may choose to show your plant’s “persona” through name or location, but your good deeds are the most true way to know whether your plant is worth growing, time and energy invested, or whether you must seek a new friend.


Sara Hawks, a garden writer and horticulturist, earned her master’s in horticulture from the University of Arkansas. A native of Laguna Beach, California, she has returned many times to Arkansas, where she lives with her husband, son, and two daughters, in Winfield. She can be reached at

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