Glossary of Gardening Terms

Many people are put off gardening because it sounds too complicated and technical. However a beautiful garden can easily be produced and maintained with the minimum of knowledge. To start you off below is a glossary of some of the most common terms.



Plants that complete their lifecycle in one season and require planting again next year. Often used to produce seasonal displays in borders and containers. Examples: Sweet Peas, Nigella, Nasturtiums, Pot Marigolds


This is the direction your garden faces and it affects the amount of light received. North-facing gardens get least light and can be damp, while south-facing gardens get most light but can be dry


Plants that produce leafy growth in the first year and then flower, set seed and die in the second year. Examples: Wallflowers, Sweet William, Foxgloves

Blubs, corms and tubers

These are all underground storage organs formed from either the plant leaves, stems or roots. New plants emerge from buds within these organs. Examples: Snowdrop, Gladioli, Hyacinths, Iris, Daffodil, Tulip


Require some other means of support, such as another plant, wall or trellis in order to grow. Examples: Clematis, Sweet Pea, Hedera (Ivy), Honeysuckle, Wisteria


Plants that shed their leaves at the end of the growing season, producing new leaves the following spring


Relates to plants that need soil with a low Ph or 6 or less. Such plants should be potted up with ericaceous compost


Plants that retain their leaves through the year. Examples: Ceanothus, Hebe, Holly, Skimmia


Described in three categories – tender, half-hardy and hardy – hardiness refers to a plant’s ability to withstand winter frosts


Woody or herbaceous (fleshy) plants which grow and flower for a number of years and have stems that die down at the end of the growing season. Examples: Delphiniums, Hostas, Geraniums, Achillea, Helebores

Soil Ph

This refers to the soil’s acidity or alkalinity and is a vital factor in good plant growth. Acid soils are considered to have a Ph below 6.5, 7 is neutral and alkaline is greater than 7


Woody-stemmed plants with multiple branches that grow from near the base. Examples: Ribes, Forsythia, Pieris, Cistus, Weigela, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha


The cutting back or removal of stems of shrubs and trees


The production of plants from the plants you already have either by cuttings, seeds or division


The removal of a part of a stem which is then placed in a soil mix to produce a new plant


The lifting and dividing of shrubs to produce two or more clumps from the same plant. These clumps are then replanted in other areas of the garden to produce a new plant. Division also invigorates tired and old shrubs