Plants Dictionary

accent plant: A plant placed in contrast to its surroundings to call special attention to it.

acid: Refers to material (soil, potting mixture, water) with pH level below 7.0. Acidity is an indicator of the absence of lime or other alkaline material.

active growth period: The period within a spam of 12 months (which is not necessarily a calendar year) when the plant continues to put out new leaves, increases in size and generally, produces flowers.

air-layering: A form of layering in which the branch is potted or wrapped in a moist growing medium to promote root growth.

aerial root: Roots produced along the stem above ground, mainly by monopodial plants. They usually do not enter the medium.

air plants: Air plants (also called epiphytes) are plants that live attached to a plant (or other structure like a telephone pole or a building) and not in the ground). Epiphytes are not parasites; they get water and nutrients from the air (and not from their host).

alkaline: Refers to a material (soil, potting mixture, water) with has a pH level above 7.0. Alkalinity can be an indication of the presence of lime. In general, it is the opposite of acid.

alpines: Small shrubs or perennials that grow naturally in mountainous areas; often used in rockeries.

angiosperm: Angiosperms (meaning “covered seed”) are flowering plants. They produce seeds enclosed in fruit (an ovary). They are the dominant type of plant today; there are over 250,000 species. Their flowers are used in reproduction. Angiosperms evolved about 145 million years ago. They became the dominant land plants about 100 million years ago (edging out conifers, a type of gymnosperm).

annuals plants: Annuals are plants that live for a year or less based on Latin ‘annus’, meaning ‘year’. Annuals are also known as seasonal flowering plants which flower only for three to four months. They are normally grown through seeds. They grow, flower, make more seeds and die, within a year. Annuals are great for creating instant effect and adding color to your garden. Planting annuals also gives you the option of changing the layout of your garden after a year. Most annuals are tender and some of them like phlox look beautiful and are excellent as borders and hedges.

bamboo: Bamboo is a fast-growing monocot grass of the Poaceae family, characterised by its woody, hollow, round, straight, jointed stem.

basionym: In the scientific name of organisms, basionym means the ‘original name’ on which a new name is based. The term is primarily used in botanical nomenclature, the scientific naming of plants.

bedding plants: Bedding Plants are usually used to fill gaps in the borders for a temporary affect. Once flowering is complete they can be disposed of.

biennials plants: A plant that takes two years to grow from seed to fruition, bloom and die or a plant that lasts two years is a biennial, based on Latin ‘biennis’ meaning ‘two years’. These are also seasonal flowering plants that flower only in the second year of planting. After blooming, they don’t perform well the following year or become untidy and then dies. To have blooms year after year with biennial flowers, you have to plant seeds every year.

bulbs: A bulb is a specific stem structure which is planted beneath the soil and stays underground. Roots grow down from it, and stem and leaves grow up from it. Most bulb plants have a dormant (resting) period during which there is no growth visible. Bulb plants grow, flower, then the leaves remain for sometime and disappear completely until next year. They are easy to grow and guaranteed to bloom.

bract: A modified leaf, often part of a flower, which may be either leaf-like or petal-like and is something highly coloured and long lasting.

cacti: A cactus is any member of the plant family Cactaceae, native to the Americas. Cacti are unusual and distinctive plants, which are adapted to extremely arid and/or semi-arid hot environments, as well as tropical environments as epiphytes or hemi-epiphytes. They show a wide range of anatomical and physiological features which conserve water. Their stems have adapted to become photosynthetic and succulent, while the leaves have become the spines for which cacti are well known.

climbers: These are the plants with soft stems that grow only with a support. They rely on something else for support; another plant, a wall or trellis. Different types of climbers have devised many crafty ways to hold on to whatever they grasp.

clone: A group of plants, all descended from a single individual plant.

conifers: Conifers are similar to trees but there are a number of biological differences, most are evergreen but some are deciduous. They make great architectural features in a garden, particularly planted in groups, they also provide excellent ground cover.

creepers: These plants can be grown along the top of the compound wall or as a cover for walls, or at the entrance as an arch.

cultivar: Usually a variety that has originated in cultivation rather than in the wild. Cultivar plan name are generally in a modern language, not Latin, and are correctly enclosed within single quotation marks.

deciduous plants: Deciduous plants lose their leaves seasonally, usually for the dry season.

dormancy: A temporary state of total inactivity. The term dormant is broadly interpreted by many botanists. In its narrowest sense, however, a plant is considered to be not merely resting but dormant if its top growth has withered away (and sometimes, as with many bulbs, its roots as well).

evergreens: An evergreen retains it’s leaves throughout the year.

epiphytes: Epiphytes are plants that live attached to a plant (or other structure like a rock) and not in the ground. Epiphytes are not parasites; they get water and nutrients from the air (and not their host).

ferns: A fern is any one of a group of about 20,000 species of plants. Unlike mosses they have xylem and phloem (making them vascular plants). They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants. Ferns do not have either seeds or flowers (they reproduce via spores).

flowering plants: Flowering plants are angiosperm: plants having seeds in a closed ovary and producing fruits.

foliage plants: Decorative plants cultivated for their ornamental leaves. The flowers of such plants are often insignificant.

fruit: Plants that are grown for their fruit. They can be trees, shrubs or perennials.

ground cover: Low growing, spreading shrubs which can cover a large area of ground. They suppress weeds and require very little attention.

grasses: Grasses are a group of flowering plants (angiosperms) that belong to the family Graminae.

gymnosperms: Gymnosperms (meaning “naked seeds”) are seed-bearing plants that don’t produce flowers.

hanging plants: Hanging baskets can be a creative way to utilise restricted or waste space where you can parade your plants, inside or outside. Ferns, trailing Fuchsias, ground covers and other hanging plants or similar can appear sensational when the foliage cascades over the edge of the hanging basket.

hardy plants: A hardy plant is one that can withstand the extremes of climate, like frost.

hedges: Hedges are trees or shrubs which are planted close together to form a continuous row. They are usually cut to maintain a particular shape and height.

herb: An herb is a seed plant that does not have a woody stem. Every year, herbaceous plants produce a completely new stem.

heterophyllous: A heterophyllous (meaning “other leaf”) plant or branch has two or more different leaf shapes on it. Although these leaves have different shapes, they have similar internal anatomical organizations.

hybrid: A hybrid is the offspring of two organisms that belong to different breeds, varieties, species or genera.

hydrophyte: A hydrophyte is a plant that grows in water or in water-logged soil. Hydrophytes have a reduced root system, reduced support and vascular systems, and specialized leaves.

indoor plants: A houseplant is a plant that is grown indoors in places such as residences and offices. Houseplants are commonly grown for decorative purposes and health reasons such as indoor air purification. Plants used in this fashion are most commonly, though not always, tropical or semi-tropical.

landscape plants: Landscape Plants are plants that are loose, straggly in growth habit. Landscape Plants would be similar to native American plants.

mesophyte: A mesophyte is a plant that has moderate water requirements.

monocarpic: A plant that flower, set seeds and then die.

mutant: A plant with inheritable characteristics that differs from those of the parent.

mutation: An abrupt and relatively permanent change in the somatic cell that is (usually) transmitted only to the female cells and (in these cases) can be inherited only by plants that reproduce asexually.

neutral: Refers to material (soil, potting mixture, water) that is neither acid nor alkaline. On the pH scale neutral has a level of 7.0.

ornamental grasses: Ornamental grasses thrive in open positions in full sun in the herbaceous border, as a specimen plant or in containers.

ornamental trees: Tress can be flowering trees, fruit trees, shade trees, ornamentals etc. Flowering trees or ornamental trees would be ideal for a home garden. Trees take a number of years to mature.

outdoor plants: Plants suitable to thrive in gardens and parks.

palm: Palm is any plant of the family Palmae having an unbranched trunk crowned by large pinnate or palmate leaves.

paludarium: Paludariums, from the word meaning marsh, typically contain one third to one half of water volume and air above. This means you can then have terrestrial (dry land) areas above the water line, along with the flora and fauna that like to inhabit them, as in the picture above.

pedicel: A small stalk bearing an individual flower in an inflorescence.

perennials plants: The Latin ‘perennis’ means ‘many years’. Perennials are those flowering plants that last longer and keep on flowering. Most take two years until they are old enough to bloom. Once you plant them there is no need for replanting year after year. But they are not a good option, if you want to change the layout of the garden frequently.

pH: literally, the hydrogen ion concentration in soil, potting mixture, water, etc. The pH scale is used as a means of measuring the acidity or alkalinity of any of these substances. The scale extends from 0 to 14, with pure water (pH 7.0) as the standard.

polycarpic: A plant that flowers and sets seeds many times during its lifetime

pot plants: Pot plant is a plant suitable for growing in a flowerpot (especially indoors).

rest period: The period within each span of 12 months (not necessarily a calendar year) when the plant is relatively inactive, retaining its foliage, but producing little or no new growth.

rhizome: A rhizome is a thick, horizontal underground stem (not a root) of a plant, that grows close to the ground. Rhizomes have nodes and scale-like leaves; roots form on the lower surface and new shoots can form at nodes.

runners: An above-ground, more or less horizontal stem that produces bubs at nodes, from which roots and new growth form.

sessile: Without a stalk; referring to leaves or flowers arising directly from a plant stem.

shrubs: Shrubs are woody plants smaller than trees, having a short stem with branches near the ground or several stems that may be erect or may lay close to the ground. It will usually have a height less than 4m (13 feet) and stems no more than about 8cm (3 inch) in diameter.

synonym: Sometimes taxonomists create new names for groups that already have a name. They may do this because they are unaware of the original name or they may think the organism before them belongs to a different group when in fact it does not. If two or more names are found to apply to the same group, they are considered synonyms. In most cases, the first name takes priority and is considered to be the valid or accepted name. However, there can be exceptions and it is not always easy to determine which of a series of synonyms should be considered valid or accepted.

specimen plant: An unusual or impressive plant grown as a focus of interest in a garden.

succulent plants: Succulent plants, also known as succulents or fat plants, are water-retaining plants adapted to arid climate or soil conditions. Succulent plants store water in their leaves, stems and/or roots.

stipule: A small leaf-like appendage to a leaf, typically borne in pairs at the base of the leaf stalk.

stolon: A shoot that creeps along the ground and roots and produces a new plantlet wherever it comes into close contact with the surface of the potting mixture or soil. Stolons differ from runners in that runners can root only at their nodes.

tepals: Undifferentiated petals and sepals.

trees: Woody perennial usually with a clean main stem with branches above. Most trees are deciduous but there are some evergreens. The main stem (trunk) is at least 8cm (3 inch) in diameter at a point 1.4m (4.5 feet) above the ground, a definitely formed crown of foliage and a mature height of at least 4m (13 feet).

tropophytes: a yearly cycle with one season in which water is unavailable to plants because of lack of precipitation or because the soil water is frozen. This season alternates with one in which there is abundant water.

tubers: Bulb stems or roots with food stores which looks like a potato.

variety: A plant form that differs from the natural type species. The term variety as used by modern botanists refers only to variations that have originated in the wild, but the word is also frequently applied to variations arising in cultivation, which should techically be known as cultivar. The names or true varieties are usually in Latin and are not enclosed in quotation marks.

vegetables: Plants that are grown to provide food. The edible part can be roots, stems or leaves.

xeriscape: A garden or landscape created in a style that requires little or no irrigation or other maintenance, used in arid regions.

xerophyte: A xerophyte is a plant that is adapted to very dry conditions (like deserts and the emergent level of the rainforest). Their adaptations include small or absent leaves, small, sunken stomata, and thick cuticles.

water plants: Usually perennials that have adapted to growing in water (aquatics) or wet soil (bog plants).