Gardening Glossary of Terms


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Acidity [soil] – Soil that is below 7.0 on the pH scale. Acid soils are good for ericaceous or calcifuge plants. 
Aphid – A sap-sucking insect that can disfigure or damage ornamental plants, in large enough infestations. They excrete honeydew, which can attract sooty mould. 
Alkaline [soil] – Soil that is above 7.0 on the pH scale. Alkaline soils are good for plants that are not ericaceous, and are calciphilic. 
Alpine – Any plant that is native to alpine zones of the world, that are above the tree line. These plants are often adapted to these adverse conditions, and can grow well in poor soils. 
Annual – A plant that completes its lifecycle (germinating, growing, flowering, seeding and dying) within a single growing season. 
Aquatic – A plant that grows completely or partially submerged in water.
Biennial – A plant that completes its life cycle (germinating, growing, flowering, seeding and dying) within two growing seasons. 
Biological controls [pests] – A means in which a parasite, predator or disease is introduced to control pests. 
Bleeding – The loss of sap from a wound of a tree or plant. 
Blight – A disease, typically caused by fungi, that infects and damages plants. 
Bloom – The flower of a plant, the state of being ‘in bloom’ when flowers are apparent. 
Bolt – The term applied to early flowering or seeding of vegetables which renders them unfit for use in cooking. This is also known as ‘running to seed’.  
Bonsai – Miniaturising trees, shrubs or plats in containers. 
Bud – An undeveloped, embryonic shoot. 
Bud blast – The withering and drooping of buds from a healthy plant. 
Bulb – A short underground stem. It is used as a food storage device by dormant plants. 
Burr – A rough, prickly husk covering some seeds or fruits. 
Calcifuge – Lime-hating.
Calciphile – Lime-loving.
Cane – A long, supple, woody stem.
Canker – A disease that causes patches of dead cells on the trunk or branches of a woody plant. Bleeding can also occur. 
Capsid – A green or brown bug that feeds on sap and leaves of young plants. 
Chimaera – Growth that results from grafting two tissues that are unrelated. 
Chlorophyll – The green pigment in plants that absorbs sunlight. It is a key factor in photosynthesis. 
Chlorosis – A deficiency in chlorophyll. Pale or yellow foliage may occur as a result. 
Coppice – A thicket or copse of small trees. 
Coppicing – A method of managing trees where young tree stems are cut to the round to encourage vigorous growth.
Cordon – A plant, usually a fruit tree, trained to grow upwards on a single branch to save space. 
Crocks – Small pieces of broken pots or earthenware, placed at the bottom of a pot or container to encourage good drainage.
Crown – The part of a plant where the roots and stems meet.
Cultivar – The name given to any plant variety that has been cultivated to distinguish it from wild species.
Deadheading – Removing dead flower heads in order to encourage more flowers to bloom.
Deciduous – Plants that shed their leaves seasonally. 
Dieback – Where the outer parts of a plant die as a result of disease, climate changes or seasonal changes.
Division – The means by which herbaceous plants, most commonly perennials, can be split. This is often done to increase stock and restore vigour to the plant. 
Dormant – Where a plant rests after and prior to the growing season, the period before growth begins. 
Downy – Where leaves are covered in short hairs.
Ericaceous – Plants that dislike lime and need soils with a pH of 6.5 or lower. 
Espalier – A plant whose branches are trained to grow horizontally against walls or wire framework. 
Everbearing – Strawberries that yield berries throughout the year, except winter. 
Evergreen – A plant with leaves that remain green all year round. 
Fan – A method of growing plants on wires or against walls in the shape of a fan. 
Fertiliser – Any substance, organic or not, that is used to increase nutrients in the soil. 
Fire blight – A bacterial disease. 
Floricane – Raspberry and blackberry stems that grow for a year before fruiting and flowering.
Floriferous – Any plant that is flower bearing. 
Flower – The reproductive structure of the plant. 
Forcing – The act of inducing plant growth by controls such as heat and light. 
Frond – The leaf of a tree fern, fern or palm. 
Fruit – The ripened ovaries of a seed bearing plant. 
Fungicides – Chemicals that control or destroy fungus. 
Fungus – Spore bearing organisms that rely on living or dead organisms to provide nourishment.
Gall – An abnormal growth or swelling on a plant. This may be caused by insects, fungi or bacteria.
Genus – A group of closely related species. 
Germination – The sprouting of a seed into a seedling after fertilisation. 
Grafting – Where one plant is artificially joined to the rootstock of another so that they function as a single plant. 
Hardiness – The level of cold a plant can withstand without protection. 
Heeling in – The process of temporarily planting a tree in a shallow ditch until it can be properly planted. 
Herbaceous – Non-woody plants whose parts die back to the soil surface each year.
Herbicide – Chemicals used to kill and control weeds.
Honey Fungus – A fungus that attacks trees and woody shrubs, classified by its white fungal tissue, apparent under the bark, and the appearance of ‘bootlaces’ and tan-coloured mushrooms. 
Honeydew – Sticky secretions of aphids and scale insects; can often attract sooty mould. 
Hormone Powder – A compound used to aid the successful propagation of plants. 
Hybrid – A plant resulting from the cross fertilisation of two or more parent plants from separate species or genera. 
Insecticide – A chemical used to repel or destroy insects. 
Larva – The post-embryonic stage of many insect’s lives, before it metamorphoses into an adult. 
Leaf spot – Symptom of a viral disease that affects the leaves of many plants; mainly roses. 
Leaf mould – A compost made of fallen leaves. 
Lime – Calcium carbonate; the determining factor of soil alkalinity or acidity. 
Liming – Adding lime to the soil to make it more alkaline. 
Loam – Soil that has a balance of clay, sand and humus. It is usually very rich and fertile. 
Maggot – The larvae of flies. 
Magnesium – An essential ingredient in the production of chlorophyll. 
Manganese – An essential micro-nutrient for healthy plants. 
Mealybug – An insect like a woodlouse, but coated in a white waxy substance. It feeds on sap. 
Mildew – A fungal disease that manifests as a powdery coating on the surfaces of plants; prevented with good ventilation. 
Mulch – A protective top covering used to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.
Nectar – The honey-like liquid secreted by plants.
Nematode – A microscopic parasitic worm. Some can be used as biological controls. 
Neutral [soil] – Soil that resides at 7.0 on the pH scale, neither acid nor alkaline. 
Nitrogen – A nutrient that is essential for plant growth. 
Nymph – The larval form of some insects, such as grasshoppers and froghoppers. 
Osmocote – A slow-release fertiliser that can sometimes be confused as insect eggs or fungi. 
Oxygenator – An aquatic plant that releases oxygen into water, once submerged. 
Parasite – An organism that grows and feeds on another. 
Pathogen – A viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitical organism that attacks plants. It may be borne through air, water, soil or insects. 
Perennial – A non-woody plant that lives for more than two years (or three growing seasons). It will usually die down during the winter, but the roots will survive low temperatures. 
pH – The symbol preceding the number that indicates how acidic or alkaline a soil is. Anything below 7.0 is acidic. Anything higher than 7.0 is alkaline. 
Photosynthesis – How plants create food using energy from sunlight. 
Pinching – The method of stopping a plant growing upwards by removing the tip. It encourages sideshoots to appear. 
Plug [plant] – A small, well-rooted seedling in a cellular tray.
Pollination  The act of transferring pollen by insects, wind or hand to the female stigma of the plant. 
Potash – Potassium, responsible for fruit and flower production in plants. 
Potting – Refers to the transfer of seedlings or cuttings with roots into pots. 
Potting on – Moving a plant into a larger pot to encourage further growth. 
Primocane – The first year stems of raspberries and blackberries. 
Prostrate – Refers to any plant that creeps along the ground, lying flat. 
Pupa – The chrysalis of a butterfly or moth; the stage between the larva and the adult. 
Racemes – A spire on which individual flowers form, on short stalks of their own. 
Replant disease – A problem that affects trees or shrubs when they’ve been planted in soil which was home to the same species previously. The rosaceae family is most commonly affected. 
Reversion – Where a cultivated plant reverts back to its original form, also, a viral disease that affects blackcurrants and reduces their yield and quality, 
Rhizomes – A creeping stem that grows along or underneath soil with roots rising from it. 
Rogue – A plant that does not conform to type.
Rootball – The roots and soil of a plant that should be kept intact and left in its entirety when planting. 
Rootstock – The plant on to which a scion from another specimen is grafted. 
Rust – A fungal disease. It causes rust-coloured spots on the plant.
Scab – A scale disease caused by fungus. It causes lesions on fruit and leaves. 
Scale Insect – A small, sap-sucking insect. 
Scion – A plant shoot or cutting which will be grafted on to the rootstock of another plant to create a new plant.
Scree – A mixture of stones and sharp sand which makes a good growing medium for alpines when mixed with soil. 
Seed – The ovule of a plant that has been fertilised and is mature. It contains the embryo of a new plant, and all the seeds needed for its development.
Seedling – A young plant grown from seed. 
Self-fertile – A plant that has the ability to pollinate itself.
Self-sterile – A plant that cannot pollinate using its own pollen. 
Shrub – A multi-stemmed woody plant. A bush. 
Silver leaf – A disease that causes silvery leaves. 
Species – A group of plants that share the same common characteristics. 
Specimen – A plant of superior quality, or one grown alone to show it off to its full potential. 
Sphagnum – A number of mosses found in bogs. Decomposes to form peat moss. 
Spore – The reproductive cells of non-flowering plants, such as ferns and fungus. Can survive in very extreme, unfavourable conditions. 
Sport – A genetic mutation in which a plant varies from the norm. 
Staking – Supporting young plants, or those that are fragile, by fixing them to stakes in the ground. 
Succulent – A plant with thick, fleshy leaves that store water. Cacti and aloe are examples of this. 
Sucker – A shoot that grows from the root stock or base of a plant. 
Tender Perennial – A plant that lives for more than two years, but can’t tolerate frost. 
Topsoil – The layer of soil nearest the surface. It can reach a depth of around 30cm. 
Trench – A long and narrow ditch dug out of the ground. 
Variegated – Foliage that has patches of different colours as the result of a varying chlorophyll content. 
Variety – A group of plants that share distinct features, but are not distinct enough to be classed as a separate species. 
Vine – A climbing plant. 
Virus – A group of microscopic organisms which reproduce inside plant cells, causing destruction and disease. 
Wasp – A flying insect, considered a pest to ripe fruit in the summer. 
Weed – Any plant that is unwanted, or is a hindrance to other plants.
Weevil – A small beetle that can cause serious damage to fruits, nuts and trees. 
Whitefly – Sap-sucking insects that are particularly destructive in greenhouses. 
Yield – The amount of produce gained from a cropping plant.


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