Vegetation Vernacular


Some of these landscaping terms are used daily and others might sound unfamiliar. Take a look through these and increase your vegetation vernacular!


Accent: The use of a plant or object to draw attention to a space. Acidic soil: Soil with a pH value of less than 7.0. Aeration: A method of increasing water and oxygen into compact soil by turning and loosening the soil to allow penetration. Alkaline soil: Soil with a pH value of more than 7.0. Annual: A plant that completes its life cycle in one year or season. Apex: The tip of a stem. Arbor: A shady garden shelter or bower, often made of rustic wood or latticework on which vines, roses, etc. are grown.

Arboretum: A landscaped space where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific study, educational purposes, and to foster appreciation of plants.

Axil: The area between a leaf and the stem from which the leaf arises.

Bacillus Thuringiensis(BT): Biological Control

Beneficial Biological Controls: Insects and organic chemicals

Biennial: A plant that typically takes two years to complete a life cycle.

Budding: A form of asexual reproduction in which a new organism develops from an outgrowth or bud on another one. Bulb: An underground plant structure that contains nutrients, energy and seed to produce a plant. Cambium Layer: The thin layer of growing cells between the xylem and phloem.

Chlorosis: Iron deficiency

Clay: A soil particle which is plate-like, extremely small and may retain nutrients well.

Clod: A lump of clay which is difficult to break apart. Cold Hardy: Capable of withstanding cold weather conditions. Compost: A soil product created from decomposed garden material, used in flower beds to add nutrients and encourage good growth. Cultivar: A cultivated variety of a plant selected for some feature that distinguishes it from the species from which it was selected.

Cultivation: Turning the soil to provide better air circulation or to control weeds.

Dead Heading: Removing dead flowers before they set seed.

Deciduous: Having leaves that fall off or are shed seasonally to avoid adverse weather conditions such as cold or drought.

Defoliation: The process when a plant looses all its leaves.

Dethatching: Removing thatches in grass; removal of the dead grass.

Die Back: Tips of branches decline due to lack of moisture or disease.

Dormancy: When a plant reaches a dormant period, usually in winter.

Drainage: The downward movement of water passing through soil.

Drip Line: Outermost branch tips where the water would land to feed the tree.

Drought Tolerant: The ability of a plant to thrive without much water. Epiphyte: A plant that lives on a host plant but draws nutrients from the air.

Espalier: A flat or fan like like trellis.

Established Plant: When the plant is fully rooted.

Evergreen: A plant whose leaves or needles are green year-round.

Fertilizer: A material added to feed plants rich in nutrients, usually nitrogen (often lost with frequent mowing), phosphates and potash.

Fescue: Soft compact fine-leaved grasses.

Flower Form: Structure of a flower, i.e. single, semi, double.

Foundation Plant: A plant that is used to frame around a house or structure and connect it to the rest of the landscape.

Frond: A large leaf with multiple divisions.

Fungicide: The chemical used to control a fungus-related disease.

Germination: The sprouting of a seed, spore or pollen grain.

Genus: A subdivision of a family or subfamily in the classification of organisms.

Girdling: Also called ring-barking, is the removal of bark around the circumference of the tree in a ring. The result is a slow death to the part of the tree or woody plant above the damage.

Grading: The process of changing the slope level of an area of soil.

Grafting: Combining the vascular tissues of two plants to form a hybrid by placing a portion of one plant (called a bud or scion) into or on a stem, root, or branch of another (called the stock) in such a way that a union forms and the partners continue to grow.

Ground Cover: Plants which are low-growing and create a blanket appearance over an area.

Growing Season: The period each year when the plant grows.

Hardscape: Walkways, planters, and areas made of hard material like concrete or rocks that is incorporated into the landscape and balances with the 'softscape'.

Hardy: Plants that can survive difficult conditions like frost and severe cold.

Hedge: A variety of shrubs that when planted close together will give a wall-like appearance; often used to separate areas.

Herbaceous: Having little or no woody tissue. Most plants grown as perennials or annuals are herbaceous. Herbicide: A chemical used to control weeds.

Horticulture: The science of growing plants, flowers, trees, shrubs, fruit, & grasses. Hybrid: A plant or group of plants that results from the interbreeding of two distinct cultivars, varieties, species, or genera.

Indigenous: Occurring naturally in a particular place. Native. Iron: A mineral used in keeping grass green.

Irrigation: Applying water to vegetation and landscape to help it thrive.

Leader: The primary shoot of a plant.

Leaf Burn: A plant disease that causes a burnt appearance.

Leaf Mold: A fungal disease of plants in which mold develops on the leaves.

Lime: Calcium material used to raise the pH in soil.

Macronutrients: Essential elements needed in large amounts for healthy plant growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.

Micro Climate: The climate of a small area that is different than the climate of the surrounding area.

Micronutrients: Essential elements needed in very small amounts for healthy plant growth: iron, copper, zinc, boron, molybdenum, chlorine, and cobalt.

Mulch: A material used to cover soil for moisture conservation and weed suppression. Native Plant: A plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention. Indigenous.

Node: The part of a plant stem from which one or more leaves emerge.

Organic Fertilizer: Compounds derived from decomposition of plant and animal products and include blood meal, bone meal, manure, and sewage sludge.

Organic Matter: Biological material in the process of decaying or decomposing.

Osmosis: When water travels across a membrane.

Peat Moss: A bog like moss processed to be used in potting soils and helps assimilate nutrients for the plant. Perennial: Persisting for several years, usually dying back to a perennial crown during the winter and initiating new growth each spring. Pesticide: A chemical used to control an organism.

pH: The acidity and alkalinity of soil.

Phloem: One of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants, xylem is the other.

Photosynthesis: The process in which plants convert sunlight energy into chemical energy that can be used as fuel to aid in plant development.

Planter: The defined area, commonly raised and composed of wood or concrete, used to grow plants.

Plant Family: A plant that belongs to a family that shares the same broad characteristics.

Polladring: A pruning method in which a tree's top branches are cut back to the trunk so that it may produce a dense growth of new shoots.

Pollen: A fine powdery substance consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower or from a male cone.

Pollenation: The process in which pollen is transferred.

Pollinator Bees: Bees that transfer pollen.

Pollenizer: A plant that supplies pollen.

Pruning: A method of cutting parts of a plant off to control size, health and appearance.

Pseudo Bulb: A storage organ derived from the part of a stem between two leaf nodes.

Re-foliate: Term used for when a plant grows new leaves after a leafless period, usually in the spring.

Rhizome: A horizontal, usually underground stem that often sends out roots and shoots from its nodes.

Root Bound: A plant that has grown too large for its container resulting in matting or tangling of the roots. Rootstock: The part of a budded or grafted plant that furnishes the root system. Also called 'understock'. Rosette: A circular arrangement of leaves or petals.

Scion: A detached shoot or twig used in grafting. Shrub: A low-growing woody plant, usually under 15 feet that often has multiple stems. Shock: A term used to describe a plant that has been impacted by change, i.e. transplanting, weather, too much or too little water, frost, etc.

Sod: Small areas of turf ready for transplant to new locations. Often used to start a new lawn.

Softscape: Vegetation used in landscaping which balances with 'hardscape'. Includes trees, flowers, grasses, shrubs.

Species: Plant organisms with similar traits capable of offspring.

Specimen: An individual plant used to represent a class or genus or plants. Sphagnum: A genus of 120 species of mosses, commonly called peat moss, that survives well in wet, acidic soil. Spore: Typically a one-celled, reproductive unit capable of giving rise to a new individual plant. Spur: A projecting root or branch. Standard: A tree or shrub that grows to full height. Stolon: A stem, at or just below the surface of the ground, that produces new plants from buds at it's tips or nodes. Stress: The negative impact of non-living forces on a plant. Sucker: A secondary shoot produced from the base or roots of a woody plant that gives rise to a new plant. Tap Root: An enlarged root, that grows downward and forms a center which other roots sprout laterally. Tender: A delicate plant that is usually sensitive to frost or severe cold. Temperature Tolerance: Cold or heat, the degree at which a plant can handle temperatures and survive.

Thatch: The live or dead layer of roots and stems between the turf of a lawn and the soil.

Thinning: Pruning or removing some branches in a uniform way throughout a tree or shrub.

Topiary: A decorative style of plant growth controlled by shaping with pruning or shearing. Transplant: Moving a plant from one location to another. Tree: A woody perennial plant having a single, usually elongated main stem or trunk with few or no branches on its lower part.

Tuber: A thickened, underground stem or rhizome which stores nutrients.

Turf: A ground cover of grass.

Variegation: A pattern of leaves that contains either white or yellow markings. Variety: A sub-species of plant.

Vegetation: A general term for all plant life.

Water Sprout: A nonflowering shoot arising from a branch or axil of a tree or shrub. Wildflower: A herbaceous plant that is native to a given area and is representative of unselected forms of its species. Woody Plant: A plant with persistent woody parts that do not die back in adverse conditions. Most woody plants are trees or shrubs.

Xylem: One of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants, phloem is the other.


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