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Plant Dictionary

Published on September 25th 2019

by Sam_Coppard. All rights reserved

Plant dictionary or gardening glossary
Confused about botanical terminology or wondering what a particular term means? We've put together a plant dictionary to help you get to grips with the language of plants.
If there are any terms you think that we're missing, leave a comment!


A plant that completes its entire life cycle in a single year


A plant that completes its entire life cycle in two years

Biological pest control

A method of controlling plant pests and diseases using other living organisms e.g. using ladybirds to eat aphids


A rounded underground storage organ from which a plant grows in spring. Daffodils and tulips both grow from bulbs


A small see-through cover to protect outdoor plants from frost

Cold frame

A frame with a glass or plastic top, used to extend the growing season for a few weeks by protecting small plants from cold weather

Companion planting

Planting different species close together because they help each other grow better or protect each other from pests


With the same purpose as a bulb, corms look the same but flatter. Crocuses and gladioli grow from corms

Cover crop

Generally planted in the off-season after the main crop has been harvested, cover crops are used to improve soil quality and fertility or to manage erosion, pests, disease or weeds


Pollination of one plant with the pollen from a different plant


A plant variety produced by horticulturalists through selective breeding that doesn't exist in the wild and typically does not grow true to type from seed


Removing dead flowers from a plant to promote branching and reblooming


A tree or shrub that sheds its leaves every year


A non-parasitic plant that grows on another plant. Typically found in rainforests and other humid environments where epiphytes can obtain sufficient moisture through aerial roots


Preferring acidic soil


Trees or shrubs that keep green leaves throughout the year


The development of a plant from a seed


The complete removal of a strip of bark around the trunk or branch of a woody plant, killing the parts above the ring. Also known as ring-barking


Vegetatively joining two different plants together by combining an established rootstock with a young shoot or bud. Grafting is commonly used for producing fruit trees with desirable qualities that do not grow true to type from seed

Half hardy

Able to survive most winters in relatively mild parts of the UK, but at risk from harsh winters and early frosts

Harden off

Introduce plants to direct sun, cold nights and dryer air by moving them outside for short periods of time


Able to survive UK winters in all but the most exposed/northerly/upland locations


Vascular plants that don't have woody stems above the ground


A group of flowers arranged on a stem (called a "peduncle") that may or may not be branched


A non-native species that usually spreads quickly and easily with negative impacts

Living fossil

A species that is extremely similar to organisms only found in the fossil record


Spreading material (bark, compost or organic matter) around a plant to insulate and/or improve the soil

Organic matter

Any substance that has come from a recently living organism


A plant that completes its life cycle over a period of more than two years


Having leaves with a feather-like formation, with leaflets arranged symmetrically on both sides of a common stalk


The transfer of pollen from the male part of a plant to the female plant of a plant to enable fertilisation


Producing a new plant from a parent plant by any of a wide variety of techniques (stem cuttings, root cuttings, bulbs etc)


A woody plant with most of its branches lying on or close to the ground (not held erect as in trees)


A living plant onto which another plant can be grafted


A swollen stem that grows horizontally just beneath the surface, intermittently sending up leaves and flowers


A young shoot or budding twig, commonly used for grafting onto rootstock


A young plant grown from a seed


A perennial plant that's smaller than a tree but has at least one persistent woody stem above the ground


Able to tolerate low temperatures, but will be damaged by frost. Should be kept indoors or in a greenhouse over winter if temperatures drop below 5C


An enlarged stem or rhizome used as a nutritional storage organ, from which new plants grow in spring. Potatoes are the classic example


A naturally occurring variant within a species that usually grows true to type from seed cf. cultivar

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