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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A GLOSSARY OF TERMS (part 1 of You Asked for it)

When I first started gardening, I was sometimes confused about the terms used in gardening books and garden centers. I decided to make us a glossary of the terms I heard most often. I tried to use photos to show a visual of each term whenever it was appropriate/possible.

Dead Heading is the removal of spent or faded blooms. Now, this can mean different things for different plants. The general description would be the removing of finished flowers to maintain a neat appearance. This action will also prolong the blooming period of your flowers. For plants such as Marigold, you simply pop off the spent flower and move on. For Geraniums, you will want to remove the entire flower ball and the stem that they are attached to.


This long skinny stem is not a branch on the plant and is safe to remove with out hurting your plant.

A Dahlia will also need to have this small section of stem removed. The photo is to depict a geranium bloom that has been dead headed.

This is when you mess up the roots of the plant before you plant it in your soil. By doing this you will separate some of the roots so that they will spread out and anchor your plant. This is done by cutting, scratching or loosening the soil within the root ball. With an annual that has smaller roots I just stick my finger in the center of the bottom of the root ball and pull them apart a bit. If some should break, it is not a big deal. Scarifying will encourage root growth.

A root ball can be described as the mass of roots and surrounding soil of a plant grown in a container or a plant that has been dug out of the ground.

This is when you remove some of the unopened flower buds to improve the size or quality of the remaining buds. I have done this on a Dahlia when I was looking for a larger bloom. I normally go for the quantity of blooms. Many times plants will put out many bloom buds, but these will open to be smaller as the plant is working to support them all. If you dis-bud, the plant will have a smaller number to develop and maintain. This makes the bloom much larger. The plant I dis-bud most is a Dinner-plate Dahlia. The blooms on this variety of Dahlia ended up being almost one foot across!


A double blooming flower is one with a large number of petals. I have used Dahlia as an example.


This is a flower that has only one single ring of four or five petals. A common example of this is Pansy. I have used a Mandevilla in the photo.

Flowers that have formed two or three rings of petals. I have used a Dahlia as an example. Dahlia also comes double flowered.

CROWN The crown is the part of the plant where the roots join the shoots. this is usually at soil level or just a little below.

DAMPING OFF This is a disease that affects the life of your plant. It is a fungal disease that causes seedlings to rot at soil level, fall over and eventually die. I have seen this happen to young Geraniums. This disease can be controlled by using an anti-fungal and avoiding over watering and increasing the amount of air flow between plants.

This term refers to the period of time that the plant "sleeps." This is usually in the winter months and means that the plant is not growing. It has gone dormant during these unfavorable conditions, and therefore does not need to be fertilized and will require less water, if any at all.

HARDY A plant is considered hardy if it is capable of surviving in unfavorable conditions. Cold weather, poor soil, or lack of moisture are unfavorable conditions.

ANNUAL Annuals are plants that have a short life span. In my garden an annual is planted in May and once the frost has killed it off, it is tossed into the compost pile. This usually happens in around Sept. or Oct. Annuals are plants that you put in the garden yearly. Examples may include Petunia, Marigold or Alyssum.

PERENNIAL Perennials live much longer than annuals. These are the plants that you will need to check for hardiness. Perennials live several years or more. They will die off on top for the "off" or dormant season, but will come back to life the following year when the conditions are more favorable.

DIRECT SOWING Planting the seeds directly into the is direct sowing. Some plants such as Sweet Pea or Lavatera and Morning Glory do not transplant well, therefore are better suited to direct sowing.

HYBRID A hybrid plant is one that has been cross- bred to produce the features of two separate plants. If you should decide to take the seeds from a hybrid plant, chances are that you will not get the same color blooms as from the plant you took them from. Instead you will get the features of one of the parent plants that were used to make the hybrid.

INVASIVE Invasive plants are those that spread aggressively from their original planting location. They are plants that are able to choke out other plants that existed prior to planting, and can easily take over an area.

The node of a plant is the area on the stem where a new leaf or shoot grows. This is the area for pruning. When you take a cutting off of the plant, remove the leaves at the node and place in water. The node is where the new roots will form. Always take cuttings or prune above a node.

offset or plantlet

An offset is the young plants that sprout naturally around the base of the existing "mother" plant. These plantlets are often called suckers. Lilacs and many other shrubs are known for this. Spider plants also produce offsets.

SELF SEEDING This is when a plant reproduced by seed without human help. The newly seeded plants are often referred to as volunteer. A very well known self seeder is the Dandelion.


This term is used to describe the leaves on a plant that have more than one color. This can occur in patches, stripes or different colored edges. The example is of a Wandering Jew.

PLANTLET A plantlet is a baby plant that is formed from seeds or offshoots. They simply are young plants that have not matured yet.


If I have missed any terms that you have interest in an explanation of, or if you are unclear in my definitions, please let me know. I will edit them into the post here. I have only listed the ones that I use most often and have heard frequently.

Until next time…from my greenhouse in Alberta Canada….Happy gardening!

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