Quick plant & gardening lingo guide

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Do you ever find yourself struggling with all the different plant lingo? Don't feel bad. If you are not the gardening type, it is not uncommon. So many are taking to gardening these days and the thought of it just makes me happy. So here, I will give you the quick lowdown.


Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle within a year. They will not come back after the winter.


Perennials are plants that live for over two years. They will bring you joy year after year.



Perennial-salvia is a long bloomer and one of my favorites AND it does wonderfully in the tri-cities.


These are some perennials out of my own beds that are blooming now! In order from left to right, Diantus- sea thrift, Viola- blue moon, Peony-paula fey, Peony-not sure what kind.


You also may have heard of biennials.

Biennials are plants that live a two-year life cycle. Some do not flower in the first year but will produce a beautiful showing the second year and then die off. Other will bloom both years and then die off.



This a biennial call foxglove. You just can't beat the beauty of a blooming foxglove.


You may also wonder what the difference between a tree and shrub is... Some shrubs are the size of trees and some shrubs can be pruned to look like a tree.


Shrubs are woody plants that have several main stems growing from ground level.



Trees are woody plants that typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground.




Deciduous- A plant which is deciduous will shed all of its foliage at the end of the growing season. Deciduous plants will then produce a new set of leaves at the onset of the next growing season.





Evergreen- Evergreen plants retain their foliage throughout the year. For many evergreens, older interior foliage will begin to be shed with the onset of new growth. It is important to water evergreens thoroughly during winter. Especially during periods of dry and windy weather


Self-seeding. Since annuals last only one year and biennials two, you may think that planting them is a waste of time. Rest assured that some annuals are self-seeders — they scatter seeds around the garden, which then grow without fuss. The great thing is that the new plants will continue this cycle.

Besides annual and biennial self-seeders, there are some perennials that perform this useful task too.


Acidic and alkaline soil. Water and sunshine aren’t the only things your plants need to grow. They also require nutrients, which they can get from the soil. Whether or not your plants get the right amount and type of nutrients will depend on the pH value of your soil. You can test this easily by using a kit from your local garden center, and the type of soil you have will determine what you should and shouldn’t plant.

A pH value below 7 signifies an acidic soil, while a pH value above 7 indicates an alkaline soil. If the value is exactly 7, your soil is neutral. Some plants like acidic soil, while others prefer alkaline, so pay attention to this when you’re designing your garden.




Taking cuttings. Want to make some plants for free? One of the easiest ways to do this is by taking cuttings. To learn how to take cuttings for a particular plant, it’s best to find a tutorial online.

A general guideline to get you started is to first cut off a length of stem about 3 to 6 inches long. Remove the lower leaves so that you have a length of stem to plant in soil. If you like, you can dip this part in a rooting hormone, which will help it to take root. Pot up your stem in a moist potting mix that includes sand, perlite or vermiculite, then wrap it loosely in plastic or cover it with a cloche. It usually takes a month or two for the plant to be ready to plant outside.


Deadheading is an easy way to keep plants looking good. It will also encourage new blooms. It’s a quick process that simply involves removing faded or dead flowers to direct energy back into the plant to make new flowers. It can usually be done by using your finger and thumb to snap off the dead bloom. If the stem is tough, you can use scissors or shears to cut it.



Staking. Have you ever seen a gorgeous flower rise up in a bed and then sadly flop over as soon as the rain falls? Tall plants can’t always stay upright without help, and this is where staking comes in. The term simply refers to a method of supporting long, top-heavy plants.

The way you stake will depend on your budget, style and expertise. You can buy all different shapes and sizes or make your own.


Hardening off. If you’ve been growing seedlings indoors or in a greenhouse, it will be difficult for them to suddenly face the elements outside. They’ll need a period of adjustment, or hardening off — two to three weeks (or longer if the initial growing conditions were very warm) where the plants are gradually exposed to harsher conditions to get them used to growing outdoors.

There are a few ways you can do this, including increasing the period of time your plant stays outside in a sheltered spot from a few hours to a day to several days. Alternatively, place your plants in a cold frame, leaving the top exposed for increased time spans. Or you can withhold water from the young plants in a controlled way, which is essentially the same as leaving them out in the elements.



Pinching is a good idea to encourage a more full and bushy plant. It will grow multiple stems rather than just one long one. You can do this by using a technique called pinching, where you prune the main stem back to just above a couple of leaf nodes (the joints in a stem where a leaf starts to grow). Use your thumb and finger to pinch the tender stem off as close to the leaf nodes as possible, which should force it to grow a couple of new stems and result in a fuller plant.


So these are just some of the descriptive words that you have probably heard if you are dabbling in the gardening world. There are so many more but you will learn as you go. I seen a little quote the other day that seems so perfect.


If you are not killing plants, you are not really growing as a gardener.


The best way to learn is from trial and error. Someone can tell you or you may read and research but I can guarentee you will forget part of what you learn. BUT, if you actually dive in and do it, and maybe fail a time or two, you are much more likely to remember every detail.


So dive in and just do it. BE KIND to yourself because really, who is going to judge you besides yourself. We seem to be our own worse critics. If some of your experiments fail that just means you are normal. And don‘t get discouraged after a few fails. Keep on, keeping on and have fun!


That’s all for now. Happy gardening!


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