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Gardening Terms That Every Gardener Should Know

Updated on November 19, 2019
Casey White profile image

Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.

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Try Creating Gardening Flashcards

If you are an avid gardener, you have probably already found out that gardening requires a lot of skill, luck, and knowledge. I have found the most effective way to learn things is by creating flashcards, and I hope some of you will use the definitions contained within this article to create your own.

Acidic Soil - soil with a pH below 7

Alkaline Soil - soil with a pH above 7

Annual Plant - a plant that will complete its life cycle in one year (or less)

Anther - The part of the stamen of a flower that contains the pollen

Aquaponics - crops grown from nutrient-rich water that also serves as an aquaculture farm (breeding, raising, and harvesting fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants)

Axil - the inner (or upper) angle between a leaf and the stem from which it springs

Bareroot Plants - deciduous shrubs, trees, some perennials sold with the soil removed from their roots

Biennial Plant - a plant that germinates and produces roots and foliage during its first growing season; blooming, producing seed and dying during its second growing season

Blanching - the process of blocking light from parts of some vegetables such as asparagus, cauliflower, or endive to keep them paler in color and/or milder in flavor

Bolt - to produce seeds or flowers prematurely (usually referring to vegetables and annual flowers)

Bud - an undeveloped or rudimentary organ or shoot of a plant (terminal buds are produced at the end of a shoot; lateral buds are produced in the axil of a plant; latent buds lie dormant beneath the bark)

Budding - a way to asexually propagate plants by taking a bud from one plant and inserting it beneath the bark of another related plant

Bulb - an underground stem base that contains an embryonic plant surrounded by scales (modified leaves overlapping each other)

Calyx - the collective sepals of a flower

Chill requirement - the number of hours a plant must be exposed to temperatures between 32 F- 45 F before the plant breaks dormancy

Compound leaf - a leaf whose leaflets are attached to the middle vein but have their own stalks (hickory, ash, pecan, and many other trees have compound leaves)

Corm - swollen underground stem base composed of solid tissue (unlike scales of a bulb)

Corolla - the collective petals of a flower

Crown (two meanings) - a tree's entire branch structure including the foliage, and the point at which a plant's roots and top structure join, which is usually at or near the soil line

Cultivar - short for "cultivated variety" - genetically distinct plants selected for desirable characteristics to be maintained during propagation by seed, cuttings, or division

Deadhead - removal of spent flowers to prolong the bloom season and prevent unwanted seedlings

Deciduous - any plant that naturally sheds all of its leaves

Defoliation - unnatural loss of foliage due to high winds, drought, extreme heat, etc.

A Tree's Drip Line

Dieback - occurs when a part of the length of a plant's stems die, starting at the tip (happens due to inadequate moisture, poor climate adaptation, nutrient deficiency, severe injury from pests or diseases)

Dormancy - the time when a plant's growth processes slow down significantly (usually during the onset of winter)

Drainage - downward movement of water through the soil

Drip line - the area of soil around a tree directly under its outermost branch tips (rainwater drips from the tree at this point) - see photograph above

Epiphytes - these grow on a host plant but receive no nourishment from it (unlike parasites) - they live on nutrients drawn from the air, rainwater and organic debris on the supporting plant

Espalier - a tree or shrub trained for its branches to grow in a flat pattern (usually against a wall or fence, or on a trellis or horizontal wire)

Evergreen - evergreen plants never lose all of their leaves at one time, unlike deciduous plants

Fertilization - the fusion of female and male gametes following pollination.

Fertilize - apply nutrients to a plant

Forcing - procedures used to produce flowers, vegetables, and fruits out of season; a process used to hasten a plant to maturity (usually in a greenhouse)

Frond - the foliage of ferns or any foliage that looks fernlike

Genus - the first word in a plant's botanical name

Girdling (also called ring-barking) - removing bark around a stem or branch, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients (either accidentally or intentionally), resulting in the death of the area above the girdle over time

Girdling

Hardening off - adapting a plant that has been grown indoors or in a greenhouse to outdoor conditions by exposing the plant to increasing periods of time outside (done so that when the plant is placed in the garden the transition is made with a minimal amount of shock)

Hardy - a plant's hardiness is its resistance to or tolerance of frost and freezing temperatures (it does not refer to the plant being pest or disease resistant, or tough in general

Herbaceous - a plant with soft or fleshy tissue, pretty much the opposite of woody

Humus - commonly used to describe organic materials that will eventually decompose (i.e. sawdust, leaf mold, animal manure)

Hybrid - a plant resulting from a cross between two species (usually produced by plant breeders)

Hydroponics - gardening without soil; nutrients provided in a water-based solution

Lath - an overhead structure that either reduces the amount of sunlight reaching plants or protects them from frost

Leader - the central, upward-growing stem of a single-trunked tree or shrub

Leaf burn - is the result of damage to or destruction of a leaf's tissues from sunlight, chemicals, strong wind, or lack of water

Leaf mold - partially decomposed leaves dug into the soil as an organic amendment (often used in potting soil mixes)

Leaf scar - indicates where a leaf stalk was once attached (usually a rounded or crescent-shaped mark on a branch)

A Lath Protects Plants From Harsh Sunlight

Gardening is learning, learning, learning. That's the fun of them. You're always learning.

— Helen Mirren, Actress

A Never-Ending Process of Learning

Microclimate - the climate of a small area (influences which plants you choose for a particular area of your yard and how well they will grow in that area)

Naturalize - to set out plants or bulbs randomly, leaving them in place to spread at will (as in the wild)

Node - the joint of a stem where a branch, bud or leaf begins to grow (the area of a stem between nodes is called the internode)

Offset (two meanings) - refers to the increases of bulbs and corms; and a young plant that develops naturally at or near the base of a parent plant

Open-pollinated plants - plants that are produced from random, natural pollination

Opposite leaves - leaves that grow from the same node on a stem but on opposite sides

Organic matter - anything that originates from a living organism and can be worked into the soil to amend/improve its condition

Peat moss - the partially decomposed remains of several mosses used as an organic soil amendment (highly water-retentive, spongy and organic) to increase soil acidity

Budding

WikiHow has a great article on how to perform budding on plants.
WikiHow has a great article on how to perform budding on plants. | Source

Gardening Burns Lots of Calories

Perennials - nonwoody plants that live for more than two years

Pleaching (also called plashing) - a way to train plants to form a hedge by interweaving branches together (process explained in the video below) so they fuse together over time

Pollenizer - any plant used to provide pollen for another plant (example: many apple trees do not produce fertile pollen so another pollenizer apple tree is planted nearby)

Pollination - the actual transfer of pollen from the male reproductive organs to the female ones, leading to fertilization and seed production

Pollinator - an insect or animal that transfers pollen from one plant to another

Rhizome - a modified subterranean plant stem that sends out roots/shoots from its nodes (grows horizontally beneath or at the soil surface)

Rootbound - plants become rootbound when they grow in the same container too long, causing the roots to become matted and tangled and grow in circles (see video below to learn how to repot rootbound plants)

Rootstock - the portion of a budded or grafted plant furnishing the root system and sometimes part of the branch structure

Runners (also called stolon) - stems that creep along the soil surface, rooting at intervals and forming new plants

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.

— Doug Larson, (February 10, 1926–April 1, 2017) American Journalist

Bees Are Great Pollinators

An insect or animal that transfers pollen from one part of a flower to another is called a pollinator.
An insect or animal that transfers pollen from one part of a flower to another is called a pollinator. | Source

Gardening Puts Oxygen Back Into the Atmosphere

Scion - the shoot or bud cut from one plant to be grafted or budded onto the rootstock of another

Self-seeding (self-sowing) - a plant that sheds fertile seeds that produce seedlings

Species - the second word in a plant's botanical name (a subdivision of a plant's genus)

Specimen plants - plants (usually trees or shrubs) large enough or striking enough to make a significant, immediate impact in a garden or landscape

Sphagnum moss - mosses native to bogs that are collected live and packaged in whole pieces, fresh or dried and used for lining hanging baskets (or for air layering)

Spore - a simple reproductive cell that can produce a new plant

Spur (in relation to fruit trees/grapevines) - a specialized short twig that bears the plants blossoms and eventual fruit

Spur (in relation to flowers) - short and saclike or long, tubular projections from a blossom's petals or sepals

Standards - plants trained to look like a small tree, having a single, upright trunk topped by a rounded crown of foliage

Stress - a plant's health endangered by things like inadequate watering, wind or high/low temperatures (symptoms of stress include wilting or dulling foliage)

Sucker - growth that originates from the rootstock of a grafted or budded plant (rather from the desired grafted or budded part of the plant)

Taproot - a central, thick root that may penetrate deeply into the ground

Growing Fruits and Vegetables Saves Money

Tender plants - plants that have a low tolerance for freezing temperatures or frost (the opposite of hardy plants)

Tendrils - growths along the stems that wrap around supports enabling the plant to climb (as in a vine)

Trusses - clusters of flowers (usually compact) at the end of a stem, branch, or stalk

Tuber - a swollen underground stem with several scattered growth points (think potatoes)

Underplanting - placing one plant beneath other (groundcover beneath a tree, for example)

Variegation - markings (striping, edging) in a color different from the primary color of a petal or leaf

Variety - the third word in a plant's botanical name (a subspecies of species)

Whorl - three or more flowers, branches or leaves growing in a circle from a node on a stem or trunk

Woody plants - plants with hardened stems or trunks


© 2019 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

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    • Casey White profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

      4 months ago from United States

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent and informative article about the Gardening terms.

      I like gardening, but don’t know so many details. This is quite helpful, therefore would refer again.

      Thanks for sharing this excellent information.

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