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Gardening glossary

Learn the difference between the main plant types and many other gardening terms you may stumble upon during your trips to the nurseries.

Glossary of Gardening Terms

When selecting plants for your garden, there is a lot of information that is necessary to understand in order for the plants to survive in their desired location. What type of soil does your garden consist of? What type of plant are you planting? How can this plant be utilized in the garden? Often, plants come with tags that offer a little bit of information. Now you can take that information a bit further by knowing the meaning to these gardening terms.

Acid soil Soil is considered to be acidic when the pH is measured to be lower than 7. The lower the number, the higher the level of acid in the soil.
Alkaline soil When the pH level is measured to be higher than 7, the soil is considered to be alkaline.
Annual Plants that grow for only one season
Biennial Plants that grow for two years are considered to be biennial. The first year is when the plant grows and the second year is when the plant flowers or produces fruit. Some biennials, such as Hollyhock, re-seed themselves giving the impression they are perennials.
Broadcast seeding The act of scattering seeds, by the handful, across a large area. This process is typically used for seeding of lawns and wildflower gardens.
Bulb A stem or flower bud that is surrounded by a mass of it's own food supply.
Butterfly gardening Designing a garden that will attract butterflies
Cold frame An enclosure, which is covered with glass or plastic, used to create a greenhouse effect for young plants.
Companion planting The act of planting two different plants within close proximity of each other with the belief that traits from each plant will benefit the other.
Container gardening Using containers (flower pots or other such containers) to grow plants rather than an actual garden plot.
Corm A mass of stored food consisting of roots at the base and flower buds at the top
Cutting A small piece from a plant intended for the development of another plant - see propagation.
Dead-head The act of removing spent flowers either with a sharp instrument or by pinching-off
Diploid A plant with the normal amount of chromosomes.
Floribunda or Florida A plant that flowers in abundance.
Forcing The act of forcing a plant, or a branch, to bloom by means of an artificially created environment.
Germination The time when a seeds has sprouted above the soil.
Hardening-off Gradually introducing plants or seedlings to the out-of-doors. This is done over several days, increasing the time outside each day.
Hard-wood cutting A portion of a mature branch that is in the process of developing roots to produce a new plant.
Heirloom plant A plant, vegetable, or seed that has been in cultivation for several years.
Hummingbird gardening Designing a garden that will attract hummingbirds.
Leach Dissolving, or moving, nutrients and minerals from the soil by running water through the soil.
Leggy Term used to describe a plant-or a portion of a plant-that has grown long, thin stalks. This is usually due to lack of adequate sunlight.
Perennial Plants that grow back every year when given proper care.
pH The measurement of the soil's alkalinity versus acidity, on a scale of 1-14 with 7 being neutral, 1-6 on the acid side and 8-14 on the alkaline side.
Pinching back / off The removal of the newest growth of a plant by pinching with your fingers or snipping-off with snipers. This encourages fuller plants.
Propagation Producing multiple plants from a single plant.
Rhizome Similar to tubers, but longer in shape. Examples: Iris, Cala Lily.
Root bound The compaction and entanglement of a plants roots within it's confined growing environment.
Rosea Rose-colored.
Rugosa Wrinkled or crinkled.
Slow-release fertilizer A type of fertilizer that "breaks-down" over time, moisture content, and/or temperature variances.
Soft-wood cutting A portion of an immature branch that is in the process of developing roots to produce a new plant.
Sour soil Soil with a high level of acid and a low level of alkaline. The pH of 6 indicates slightly acidic soil and the pH of 4 indicates soil that is very acidic.
Succession planting The planting of several flowers or seeds at one time and again at one or two week intervals.
Sweet soil Soil with a high level of alkaline and a low level of acid. The pH of 4 indicates slightly alkaline soil and the pH of 6 indicates soil that is very alkaline.
Tetraploid A plant that has twice the number of chromosomes, resulting in larger, thicker flowers. Often, there will be more blooms.
Transplant Moving a plant from one area to another.
Transplant shock The stage a plant may go through when transplanted. The plant may look "ill" while it adjusts to it's new location.
Tuber A round, food-storing, underground mass of stem tissue. Flowers are developed within the tuber. Examples: Anemone, Cyclamen, Dahlia.
Tuberous root The food-storing portion of roots.