A-Z of Gardening Terms

We try not to use too much jargon, but this handy glossary of gardening terms will help you with anything you might need to know.

Adaptable as a House Plant

This means the plant can be grown indoors at least through the winter but likely to do well all year.

Annual

A plant that grows, flowers and produces seed all in one season and then does not survive the winter. It must be planted each year. Many plants we call annual may be a Perennial in warmer locations.

Bare Root

These are plants, usually trees and shrubs that are sold with little to no soil around the roots. Some perennials are also sold as bare root plants; this is most common with mail ordered plants.

CEC

Cation Exchange Capacity, A bit of a mouth full. It's a measure of how much fertilizer your soil can hold and release over time. A high CEC is good because it means your soil will hold a lot of fertilizer. Clay soils have high CEC. A low CEC means you will have to fertilise more often. Sandy soils have low CEC.

Clay Soil

Soil composed of many tiny plate-like soil particles that can compact with time to form a hard, solid mass that makes shovelling difficult, digging holes a lot more hard work, and often results in poor drainage.

Compost

Compost is the decomposition of plants and other formerly living materials into a soil-like substance that is high in organic matter, an excellent fertiliser, and capable of improving almost any soil. Compost is different to the Growing Media that is packaged and bought from garden centres and typically used to pot on plants.

Dappled Shade

Areas where there is a mixture of sun and shade, generally because a deciduous tree is nearby. Dappled shade is similar to partial shade.

Dead Heading

To remove the old spent blooms and seed heads from a plant to help keep plants blooming longer.

Deciduous

To remove the old spent blooms and seed heads from a plant to help keep plants blooming longer.

Drought Resistent

Plants that can withstand periods with little to no supplemental water when planted and established in the landscape. No plant in a pot is truly drought resistant; they will all need some water. All plants will need to be watered while getting established. Annuals and perennials need 2 to 3 weeks to establish, shrubs and trees need a year to become established. Often used interchangeably with drought tolerant although their definitions are different.

Drought Tolerant

Plants that deal with severe drought on a regular basis, and recover from repeated wilting. All plants will need to be watered while getting established. Annuals and perennials need 2 to 3 weeks to establish, shrubs and trees need a year to become established. Often used interchangeably with drought resistant although their definitions are different.

EC

A measure of how much salt is in your soil. High EC can mean that you have a problem from salt water or snow removal. Soils with very high EC can burn plants. A low EC means you need to fertilise (fertiliser is essentially made up of different types of salt). The salts that make up fertiliser are good for your plants (although too much can be bad). The salt from the sea or snow removal is bad for plants.

Exposure

The optimum amount of sun or shade each plant needs to thrive.

  • FULL SUN - 6 or more hours of direct sun a day.
  • PARTIAL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE - 4 to 6 hours of direct sun a day.
  • FULL SHADE - less than 4 hours of direct sun a day.
  • DAPPLED SHADE - areas where there is a mixture of sun and shade, generally because a deciduous tree is nearby. Dappled shade is similar to partial shade.

Evergreen Grass

These grasses are usually plants that look like grasses but aren't actually classified as grasses. Plants like the sedges and carex are grass-like but not grasses.

Fertilising

To add nutrition to your plants using either fertilisers or compost.

  • CONTROLLED RELEASE FERTILISER - Also called Time Release Fertiliser. Fertiliser comes in pellets and is an improved version of Slow Release Fertiliser. Fertiliser is released based on soil temperature itself (not microbe action) and tends to be more exact than Slow Release Fertiliser.
  • HEAVY FEEDERS - Plants that need a lot of fertiliser for optimal performance. Regular applications of fertiliser are necessary for continued performance.
  • LIGHT FEEDERS - Plants that do not need a lot of fertiliser for optimal performance. Over feeding Light Feeders can cause 'toxicity' (poisoning).
  • N-P-K - Ratio of Nitrogen to Phosphorous to Potassium in a fertiliser. These are the main nutrients required by plants.
  • SLOW RELEASE FERTILISER - Fertiliser that comes in pellets and is slowly released based largely on microbes which are more or less active based on soil temperatures.
  • TRACE ELEMENTS - Nutrients that plants need in small amounts. Common trace elements include Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, and Zinc. These elements are usually included in most commercial fertilizers.
  • WATER SOLUBLE FERTILISER - Fertiliser that either comes in liquid form or comes in crystal form that is dissolved in water.

Genus

The second part of the two-part scientific name that is used for plants on our website e.g. Petunia. The full name being Veranda Salmon Petunia (Veranda is the series, or collection that the plant is in, and Salmon is the variety)

Genera

The plural form of genus. It is used when referring to more than one plant genus. For instance, "the Petunia and Verbena genera have great garden applications."

Growing Media

The manufactured mixes used to pot up plants whether it be in pots or containers. Sometimes referred to as compost, although compost is slightly different.

Habit

The general structure of the plant.

  • CLIMBING - Plants that climb fences or other structures by using roots or stem structures to grip, vines are climbers.
  • CLUMP FORMING - A plant that forms clumps of foliage, often spreading to form other clumps close by.
  • MOUNDING - Plants with a rounded appearance, they are usually wider than they are tall.
  • SPREADING - Plants that grow low and spread along the ground, rooting at nodes along the stem.
  • TRAILING - Plants that trail along the ground or out of pots but do not root at nodes along the stem.
  • UPRIGHT - A plant that is taller than it is wide with straight (more or less) edges, these plants sometimes have a somewhat spikey appearance.

Harden Off

A process whereby a plant is gradually introduced to cold temperatures giving it a chance to build cold tolerance. Plants are naturally hardened off in the autumn as temperatures grow colder. Hardening off is often used to acclimatise greenhouse grown plants to cooler outdoor temperatures in spring. Hardening off will generally take several weeks.

Heat Tolerant

Plants that flourish despite hot temperatures.

Heavy Feeders

Plants that need a lot of fertiliser for optimal performance. Regular applications of fertiliser are necessary for continued performance.

Micro Climate

Microclimate can be applied to a variety of things. For our purposes, it is a spot within a garden that differs from the general environment. Some examples would be a wet spot where water collects during rain, a spot that remains warmer in the winter - often due to a structure, a spot that is sheltered from the wind, a spot that is affected by sea salt spray etc...

Mulch

A substance applied to the top of the soil around plants. It can be organic or inorganic and may serve several different purposes. Mulch is often made of bark or compost. Mulch helps retain soil moisture, decreases weeds, reduces erosion, helps cool plant roots, adds organic matter (provided organic mulch is used), increases the attractiveness of the landscape, and protects plants from adverse winter conditions.

Needs Good Drainage

These plants do not do well if they remain wet for extended periods of time and should be planted in locations or containers where water quickly drains.

Over-Wintering

This is a process where a plant that is not cold hardy is taken indoors or otherwise manipulated to keep it alive through the winter.

Perennial

Plants that are cold hardy and will return again each spring. Some will flower the first year they are planted and some will need to mature before flowering. Some perennials are very long lived and others will survive only a few years.

pH

A measure of how acidic or basic (the opposite of acidic) your soil is. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. Acidic soils have a pH less than 7. Basic soils have a pH greater than 7. Most plants prefer a pH between 6 and 7. Some plants, called acid loving or 'ericaceous' (azalea, camellia, citrus), will take a pH between 5 and 7. pH is important because plants don't like soils that are too acidic or basic. pH can be adjusted using 'amendments.'

Pinch

Removing a portion of the plant, often just the very tip of the shoots, to encourage branching. Often this is done by using your finger nails to pinch off the newest growth but scissors, pruning shears, or a knife can also be used.

Prune

Using pruning shears, scissors, a knife, or loppers to shape or rejuvenate a plant, not to increase branching. Generally pruning is much more drastic than pinching. Pruning is most commonly used on shrubs, trees, and perennials.

Root Bound

A plant that has been in a pot a long time may have roots that circle around the edges of the pot. These roots may not grow out into the soil. To encourage good root growth cut or break up the roots to separate them.

Root Rot

Fungal disease caused by several different types of fungi that causes the roots of a plant to turn brown, grey, and/or slimy. Root rot impairs a plant's ability to uptake water and will often kill plants that are infected. Root rot is often caused by chronic overwatering. The most common symptom of root rot is a plant that is wilting even though the soil is wet.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soil is composed of many irregular to rounded tiny grains of sand, as opposed to the many tiny plate-like soil particles that make up a clay soil. Sandy soil drains very quickly and doesn't hold on to fertilizer well.

Saturation

This is when the entire root zone of a plant is moist after watering.

Scorch

When plants receive too much sun, pesticide or fertilizer the foliage may look brown or yellowish. The foliage in these cases is said to be scorched.

Toxicity

When a plant does not react well to something it is often called Toxicity. Toxicity could refer to too much fertilizer, too much sun, sensitivity to insecticides etc...

Top Soil

The upper layer of soil that you plant in. It varies in depth from place to place, but will almost always be less than a foot deep and can be as little as 2 inches deep.

Variegated Foliage

Foliage with different colours, usually but not always random, alternating on the foliage.

Watering

Plants differ somewhat on how much water they require and will generally fall into 5 categories. These categories are most relevant for plants in containers but also apply to in ground plantings.

  • DRY - Water only when the soil is quite dry. Plants that prefer dry conditions may be susceptible to root rot disease if kept too wet. Dry plants will need little to no supplemental water once established if they are planted in the ground.
  • DRY TO NORMAL - Water when the top of the soil in a pot is dry to the touch but err on the side of dry rather than wet. While these plants will be more tolerant of moist conditions than dry plants they still do not like constantly moist soil. Dry to normal plants will need little to no supplemental water once established if they are planted in the ground.
  • NORMAL - Water when the top of the soil in a pot is dry to the touch. For in ground plantings they will need some supplemental water if there is an extended dry spell but will not need constant watering.
  • NORMAL TO WET - Water when the top of the soil in a pot is dry to the touch but err on the side of wet rather than dry. Plants that like Normal to Wet conditions will prefer that the soil be constantly moist and will not tolerate dry soils well. These plants are often good planted at pond edges. For in ground plantings you will need to provide about 2.5cm/1inch of water each week if mother nature doesn't do it for you.
  • WET - These plants need soil that is constantly moist to wet. Plants in the wet category will also do well on pond edges or as pond plantings. They do not tolerate dry soils.

Wet Feet

When the soil in a container or the landscape stays wet, plants may be referred to as having wet feet. The roots on some plants do not like to be constantly wet and we might say that the plant doesn't like to have wet feet. Conversely, the roots on some plants don't mind being constantly wet and we might say that the plant doesn't mind having wet feet.

Ideas box
Plant a warm and textured autumn container with this recipe.

Plant a warm and textured autumn container with this recipe.

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