A-Z Gardening dictionary for beginners

In the below article will have a look at some of the gardening terminology that crops up in books, magazines and on the internet so that you will not have to look at google or check your dictionary every time you see something you are unsure of.

Some of the terminologies are quite straightforward and other terms may appear quite technical, but I assure you that all the terms are easy to understand.

That’s why we have put together this gardening dictionary just for you.


Aeration is a process that involves adding air to the soil to help with water and nutrient uptake. Aerating your yard can also remove some of the excess carbon dioxide from the ground, which will help plants grow better in their environment.

The benefits of aeration are:

  • More oxygen for plant roots
  • Reduced compaction in the soil
  • Better drainage and less pooling on top of lawn soils


An annual plant is a type of plant that completes its life cycle, from germination to the production of seed in one year. They are called annuals because they only live for about one year and then die off.


Biennials are plants that grow from a seed and then live for two years. They typically take their first year to build up resources like energy, nutrients, and water before they produce flowers and seeds in the second growing season.

Brown Materials

Brown material is the term used for a mixture of wood chips, dry leaves, sawdust, and straw. These are often used as the bulking agent in compost piles to aid decomposition.


Cloches are a type of protective cover that is typically used in the garden to protect plants from frost, wind, and other environmental factors. Cloche covers can be made from any number of materials such as fleece, aluminium, plastic or even glass.

Cold Stratification

Cold stratification can be defined as a process to prepare seeds for planting in the ground. In this process, seeds are placed in moist sand and put into the refrigerator or freezer.

The low temperatures simulate the cold conditions of winter and prepare the seeds to awake from dormancy in the spring.

Companion Planting

Companion planting is the act of spacing crops out in a garden so that they can help each other grow. Companion plants have been used for centuries to increase harvests and disease resistance, but it was only recently discovered how companion plants interact with one another.

For example, marigolds are known to repel pests such as aphids and beetles from nearby crops while attracting predatory insects like ladybugs.


Compost is the nutrient-rich product of decomposing organic material like leaves, grass clippings and food scraps. The process breaks down plant matter into a soil-like mixture that can be used to enrich garden beds and containers.


In the botanical sense, coniferous plants are those which have needle-like or scale-like leaves and produce their seeds in cones. These include pine trees, fir trees, redwood trees, cedar trees, hemlock trees and spruce trees.

Coniferous plants are typically evergreen and often regarded as a group because of their similar characteristics.


An annual plant is a type of plant that completes its life cycle, from germination to the

A cultivar is a plant that has been selectively bred for desirable traits.
Cultivars are said to have “cultivated varieties” and as such, the term “cultivar” encompasses both wild plants or those grown for their fruits, flowers, foliage, or other characteristics.

The goal of most cultivars is to produce stronger, hardy plants with better yields than the original species.

Some common examples of popular cultivars include Daylilies (Hemerocallis), Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) and English Ivy (Hedera helix).


Deadheading is the act of removing a flowerhead from its stem. This can be done for many reasons, most common of which are to stop the plant from flowering and to promote more branching on plants that have already started blooming. Deadheading also encourages the production of new flowers by removing old ones.


Deciduous is a word that comes from the Latin verb “decidere” meaning “to fall off.” The word deciduous was first used in English to refer to trees and shrubs that shed their leaves in winter. These plants lose all their leaves for part of the year, so they are not evergreen.


Evergreen is a term used to describe plants that retain their foliage year-round. These plants are often called “true evergreens”. The word comes from the Old English words, efer and grēne which mean, respectively, “off” and “spring.”


A fertiliser is a type of soil conditioner. It contains nutrients needed for plant growth such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Fertilisers are either organic or inorganic; the latter containing more soluble salts that can quickly be washed away by rainwater.

Flower Bulb

A flower bulb is the specific part of a plant that stores food and nutrients for its sprout to grow. Flower bulbs are typically made up of fleshy scales or leaves, which surround the central stem, called the “caudex”. Flower bulbs can be found in many different types of plants, including tulips, amaryllis, daffodils, and hyacinths.

Garden Doctor offers more information on different varieties of flower bulbs like what they look like and how long they take to grow.


Foliage is the leaves and stems of a plant, as opposed to its flowers. It is one of the most important factors that gardeners consider when designing their gardens – it can be used for screening or simply for colour.

Foliage is also an indicator of how healthy a plant is because plants will often adjust the colour or the amount of foliage that they produce in response to environmental conditions such as drought or temperature extremes.


Germination is the process of a seed sprouting from its casing, so it can grow into a plant. For germination to occur, there are three requirements that need to be met: moisture, warmth, and oxygen.


A greenhouse is a man-made structure, usually made of glass or plastic and often heated by sunlight. A greenhouse can be used to grow plants in an environment that is often not possible outside.

Greenhouses are often used for growing food plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, and fruit trees like figs. Greenhouses are also sometimes used to house animals such as reptiles or fish which cannot live outside due to extreme temperatures or humidity levels.

Green Materials

Green material is any type of plant-based material that has been cut up or shredded finely enough to feed microorganisms during the composting process. There are many different types of green material including lawn clippings, vegetable scraps from your kitchen, and fruit peelings.


Plants that are hardy can withstand tough weather conditions. There are many factors to consider when examining a plant’s hardiness including the size of the plant, its root depth, and what zone it is grown in.

Hardiness Zones

Hardiness is measured on a scale from 1-11 with 11 being the hardest plant to kill. The zones for gardeners range from Zone 1 (the coldest) through Zone 11 (the warmest).

The hardiness zones are an indication of the average annual minimum temperature, which is used to describe where plants and animals will thrive.

The USDA Agricultural Research Service developed the system in 1960 to help gardeners know what types of plants would be suitable for their particular zone.


“Heirloom” describes plants that have been grown and passed down through generations. The definition of heirloom varies depending on who you ask, but it typically refers to a plant variety that has been passed down for at least 50 years.

In gardening circles, heirlooms are prized because they offer superior taste and texture when compared with newly created varieties, GMOs, and hybrids.


Hydroponics gardening is a type of plant cultivation that does not use soil. It uses an inert growing medium to provide mechanical support and nutrients for the plants.

There are many different types of hydroponic gardens, but they all share one common theme: water delivery systems.


Irrigation is a process of delivering water to the roots of plants, using either sprinklers or drip systems, so that they remain moist. Drip irrigation and micro-irrigation are two methods for applying water from a low flow rate over an area for agricultural purposes.


Mulch is a natural, organic surface cover that can be applied to the ground as a protective and decorative material. Mulches are typically mixtures of clay, straw, sand, or composted green waste such as leaves, grass clippings and wood chips.

There is no one perfect mulch for all applications because different mulches have different benefits and drawbacks depending on your needs.

Not True to Type

The term “not true to type” refers to a plant’s inability to produce offspring that is identical in appearance and characteristics. Apple trees for example when grown from a seedling will not bear the fruit as their parent. This can be said of many plants in your garden.

Staying with Apples as an example, if you want to grow apples that are true to type, you will need to graft cuttings onto a new rootstock.


The term perennial refers to plants that come back each year, typically with no need for replanting. This includes shrubs and flowers which are planted once and can keep coming back as long as they are cared for properly.


Photosynthesis is the process of using light, water, and carbon dioxide to create sugars. It is a natural chemical reaction in which chlorophyll absorbs energy from the sun, converts CO2 into oxygen and provides our planet with its primary source of carbohydrates – glucose.


Pollination is a process by which pollen is carried from another to another plant. Pollen is the male gamete of seed plants, and when it lands on female parts of a plant structure, such as the stigmas of flowers or the pistils and ovaries in fruiting trees like apples, it fertilizes those structures with male gametes.


Propagation is the process of growing new plants from a parent plant. There are two main types: sexual and asexual propagation.

Sexual propagation involves pollinating flowers, which then produce seeds that can be used to create new plants.

Asexual propagation, also known as vegetative reproduction, involves taking cuttings or dividing the root mass of an existing plant to make copies to produce more plants.


Pruning is the process of removing dead, diseased, and damaged branches from woody plants. Generally speaking, pruning may be done to any plant that has an above-ground stem or trunk including trees, shrubs, vines, and some vegetables.

The goal of pruning is to maintain the health and vitality of the tree or shrub while also achieving your desired shape as well as size.

Raised Bed

A raised bed is a type of garden bed that has been built up from the ground. Raised beds can be either permanent or temporary, but they are typically made of wood boards and soil.

They are often used as a space-saving way to grow vegetables and flowers in small yards with limited space, especially when there’s not enough room for rows upon rows of traditional gardens.


Rhizomes are horizontal, underground stems that sprout shoots and roots that grow upward along the stem. Rhizomes can be found below the ground, groups of large tuberous plants like ginger produce such rhizomes.

Rhizomes extend by adding nodes or “eyes” along their length so as to form new aboveground shoots if damaged; in this way, they act as a sort of replica for an entire plant with each node capable of driving new growth.


Rootstocks are the roots of a plant. They might not sound like much, but they play an important role in helping plants survive and thrive.

There are many different types of rootstock. Some common ones include clonal varieties, which are just one plant that has been genetically modified to produce clones; understocks, which are used as a base for grafting trees.

Rootstocks can also be used to determine the final size of the adult tree that has been grafted.



Scarification is a form of soil preparation that involves removing or fracturing the outer layer of the soil. This is done to produce an improved seedbed, reduce compaction from heavy traffic, and create a more uniform surface for tillage.


Scarification is the process of removing plant tissue from a seed coat or fruit skin by scoring, scratching, or abrading. This technique is often used to remove excess plant material from seeds and fruits to make them easier to germinate.


Thinning is a process in gardening where plants are removed from a crowded planting to allow more space for the remaining, often stronger-looking ones.

When it comes to trees and shrubs, thinning is done when there is not enough room for all of them to grow properly.

This can be caused by keeping too many trees or shrubs together in one area, not providing enough nutrients or water, having soil that does not drain well, or by pruning incorrectly; any of these factors will cause overcrowding which leads to unhealthy growth.


Transplanting plants is the process of removing a plant from one location and replanting it in another.

There are several reasons why you might want to transplant your plants, maybe you have started your seedlings indoors and want to plant them out or you want to move your plant into a new container or pot.

True to Type

The term “true to type” refers to the ability of a plant to produce offspring that is identical in appearance and characteristics. The traits, such as the type of fruit are passed on from parent plants through recessive genes or dominant genes.

It is important for gardeners, especially those who grow heirloom varieties, to be aware of true-to-type so they can be assured their seeds will yield the same type of plant they have grown before.


A tuber is an enlarged and swollen part of a root and some stems that serve to store natural sugars, starches, proteins and other organic compounds necessary for growth during adverse periods.

Tubers are much like Rhizomes although instead of just growing horizontally, they are able to grow in any direction.


As you can see, some of the gardening terminologies may seem a little technical but it is all quite simple I assure you.

If you are a beginner gardener, I hope that this little guide will help you decipher the language in the books you are learning from.

About Me

Hi, I’m Trev and I’ve been growing things since I can remember. When I was younger, I grew up on a farm, so I have always been around plants and animals. After studying horticulture at university, I decided to start my own nursery which I have run now for 25 years. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their gardens.

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