There are a few basic gardening terms that everyone interested in growing plants should understand. It helps you know what they are talking about on the gardening shows and in the books. We aren’t talking about all the botanical names of plants, but just the basic

language of gardening. And who knows, once you have mastered the basics, you might find yourself doing a little research on the anatomy of plants or talking with your friends about the Echinacea purpurea you found at McShane’s Nursery and Landscape Supply!

Annual: a plant whose life cycle is completed in one season

Arborist: a person who specializes in tree maintenance

Biennial: a plant whose life cycle is completed in two seasons

Botanical name: the scientific name for one specific plant;

comprised of the Genus (always capitalized) and species (not capitalized); this combination is also referred to as the binomial nomenclature.

Common name: a name given to a plant that has no scientific standing; common names are often fun and colorful, but they can also be inaccurate; the same name may apply to more than one plant and they vary regionally.

Clay: soil type made up of 50% or more clay (the smallest particles of minerals in the soil); clay soils are usually very heavy and drain slowly

Compost: decayed plant matter usually used as a soil conditioner or fertilizer

Drainage: ability of the soil to release water

Deciduous: a plant that loses its leaves each winter

Dormancy: the extended period when a plant rests; most plants are dormant during the winter in our climate

Evergreen: a plant that keeps its leaves throughout the whole year

Groundcover: a low-growing, spreading plant; usually 18 inches or less; often herbaceous

Herb: term usually applied to plants that are valued for culinary, aromatic or medicinal purposes; many herbs are also ornamental

Herbaceous: non-woody plants that die back to the ground each winter and regrow the next season

Herbicide: any chemical that kills plants

Hybrid: a plant that results from crossing two closely related plants
hardening off: slowly exposing a plant to cooler temperatures to help it adapt to outdoor conditions; this process is also sometimes called acclimating

Horticulturist: a person who specializes in plants and their culture

Humus: organic (was once living) matter that has broken down in the soil

Inorganic: derived from non-living material fertilizer any material that is used to feed growing plants

Insecticide: substance used for killing insects fungicide substance used for controlling fungi

Landscape designer: a person who specializes in the overall layout, design and construction of ornamental plantings and landscape features

Loam: soil that contains relatively equal parts of clay, sand and silt

Macronutrient: essential nutrients used in relatively large amounts by plants; plant macronutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, oxygen, magnesium, hydrogen, calcium and carbon

Micronutrient: essential nutrients used in relatively small amounts by plants; plant micronutrients include boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc

Mulch: any material put on the surface of the soil for looks, to help cool the soil or to reduce weeds, erosion or evaporation

Native: this term is poorly defined; it is usually used to refer to plants that were found growing in a given area before people began introducing non-native plants; although the word native is often used as positive and non-native as negative, there are invasive natives and very well-behaved non-natives non-native or exotic another poorly defined term; usually used to refer to any plants that were not originally growing in an area (i.e. when people arrived) invasive: any plant that is difficult to control

N-P-K: designates the ratio of N Nitrogen to P Phosphorus to K Potassium; the three major nutrients required by plants

Organic: derived from living material

Perennial: a plant that lives more than two growing seasons; usually herbaceous and dormant during the winter

Pest: collective term for any insect, plant pathogen (bacteria, fungus, virus) or weed

Pesticide: substance used to control any pest including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides

pH: a measure of acidity or alkalinity of the soil on a scale ranging from 0 to 14; neutral soil has a pH of 7.0 acid (sour): a pH reading measured below 7.0; most plants prefer slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 alkaline (sweet): a pH reading measured above 7.0

Pinching/deadheading: pinching is a process of removing the terminal (or tip) growth on a plant in order to encourage new growth; deadheading is removing the spent flowers to encourage new growth and blooms

Pollination: in flowering plants, pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther (male part) to the stigma (female part); pollination is necessary for the flower to form seed and often, fruit; some flowers are perfect (having all the necessary parts) and other flowers are imperfect (separate male and female flowers)

Sand: the largest particles of minerals that make up soil

Silt: the medium-size pieces of mineral that makes up soil; smaller particles than sand but larger than clay

Soil: layer of fine material on the crust of the earth composed tiny pieces of minerals, living and non-living organisms, water and air

Soil texture: composition of the soil determined by the proportion of clay, silt and sand

Transplant: to move a plant from one place to another balled and burlapped/B&B: preparing plants for transplanting by digging up the root ball and wrapping it in burlap to protect the root ball and aid handling

Weed: any plant growing where it isn’t wanted, generally of no economic or esthetic value

Woody: plant with bark on older stems; woody stems usually survive over winter and increase in size each year

These are all the basic terms that can be helpful to you as a gardener. However, as you accomplish and learn more, you are sure to come across new terms. A professional at McShane’s Nursery and Landscape supply would be more than happy to explain any term to you to help make your landscaping experience easier. Just ask!

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