• Gardening Jargon

    Gardening Jargon


What is the gardener talking about?

For those struggling with gardening terminology or unfamiliar with what a gardener's talking about. Sam and Adam from the Boma horticultural team have listed a glossary in alphabetical order, we thought might come in handy. 

Anything missing, give them a shout. They'd love to hear from you. 



Ask the Team






Alkaline soil Soil with a pH above 7. Typical plants that need alkaline soil include all plants in the cabbage family (Brassicaceae). These alkaline soils are often chalky and on limestone and have lower availability of minerals such as iron and zinc.
Annual A plant that provides seasonal colour and completes its life cycle in 1 year.
Arid  A term that's given to plants that originate from areas where there is little to no rain- a barren landscape where vegetation is scarce.
Bedding Used to refer to a range of plants that are usually colourful, fast-growing and temporary. The majority of these flowering plants will only last their season of interest such as the summer bedding plants, Calibrachoa, Bacopa and Nemesia looking their best between May to late August. Winter bedding plants consist of Cyclamen, Viola and Ivy.
Biennial A plant that is sown in midsummer and only produces leaves in its first year. It is then overwintered and flowers in its second year and then die. Common biennials include Wall Flowers (Erysimum) Forget-me-not, Fox Gloves (Digitalis) and Delphinium.
Bolt A term often used for annual vegetables and herbs such as lettuce and coriander that are prematurely producing seed as a result of hot weather. The foliage is then useless for harvesting as it tastes bitter.
Bulb A miniature plant that's held within a series of fleshy scales that form a bulb around it. You can get both spring-flowering bulbs Eg: Daffodils, Tulips and Fritillaries and summer flowering, such as Allium.


Alkaline Soil






Caudex Caudiciform plants such as Stephania erecta and Dioscorea elephantipes exhibit large swollen stems which act as storage units while the plant is in dormancy. They are an attractive yet unusual feature that is growing in popularity amongst enthusiasts.
Climber A plant that’s growth habit is supported vertically by vines or roots such as Ivy, Clematis and Akebia. There are a wide variety of climbing plants ranging in all shapes and sizes and can be a great addition to the garden.
Climbing Roses A climbing woody-stemmed plant with thorns that repeat flowers for a long period of time over the summer. Climbing roses are less vigorous growers than ramblers.
Clump Forming Describes the growth habit of certain plants. Rather than reaching for the skies, they form clumps of foliage close to the mother plant. Calathea, Sanseveria and Spathiphyllum are good examples of clump-forming plants.
Controlled Release Fertiliser Controlled Release Fertilizer: Fertilizer in the form of pellets that releases in accordance to soil temperature.
Corm An enlarged underground stem that acts as a storage unit, very similar to bulbs, except they do not have the characteristic scales of true bulbs. Eg, Cyclamen, Crocus and Gladiolus.
Cross-pollination Is when 2 or more of the same plant is needed in order for flowers to be pollinated and fruits produced, this occurs in a number of different plants such as Blueberries and Skimmia.


Tylecodon pearsonii Caudex






Cultivation Is the art of caring for and nurturing plants to maturity and undertaking regular maintenance to ensure they are as healthy as possible. The cultivation of plants is essential to achieve a well-kept and healthy garden.
Deadhead A process of picking faded blooms by hand to divert plant energy from seed to more flowers.
Deciduous A plant that loses all its leaves in the winter months from October till March. As a general rule, we tend to prune these plants in late autumn when they are dormant.  
Dividing The process of splitting a plant into multiple separate plants. For example, once your Agapanthus has outgrown its pot, you can split the plant into multiple smaller plants by dividing the root ball and replanting. It’s best to divide summer flowering plants in spring and spring flowering plants in summer.
Dormancy Is a period of time in which a plant is not in active growth until there is a change in environmental factors such as temperature, precipitation or availability of nutrients. The majority of plants have some form of dormancy such as herbaceous perennials and deciduous trees.  
Drainage When we talk about drainage we are talking about improving the water flow through the soil so the bottom of the plant is not sitting in water. To improve drainage, fork over the area where the plant is being placed and incorporate plenty of organic matter. For potted plants make sure you have a free-draining mix- this is achievable by adding aggregates such as gravel, grit or sand or lightweight options such as perlite/ hydroleca.
Drought Tolerant Plants that cope well with severe drought and recovers from repeated wilting. Mediterranean plants are very drought tolerant and accessible in the UK, some include: Cistus, Perovskia, Rosemary, Lavender and Olive.   



Cultivating Plants







A plant that grows on the surface of other plants in the wild- several orchids are epiphytes such as Phalaenopsis, Oncidium and certain varieties of Zygopetalum, this is why they are planted in very free draining, chunky bark. They don’t need a specific growing media as they get their water and nutrients from the air and rain making them abundant in the wild.


Plants that require a lower pH Below 5.5. We call these plants ‘Acid loving’. Some popular garden plants that are acid lovers are: Rhododendron, Camellia, Hydrangea, Erica, Azalea.


A plant that keeps its leaves all year round. As a general rule, we tend to prune these plants after flowering in spring.


A feature that occurs in some plants resulting in a hole or translucent area of a flower or leaf. A very common houseplant that exhibits this feature is Monstera deliciosa.

Ground Cover

A plant used as a living mulch to keep down weeds by covering the soil. Low growing and often mound-forming. By nature, these plants can be both evergreen and herbaceous. Examples include Vinca, Pachysandra and Galium.  

Growing Media

Is the name given to any substrate that you are using to plant into. For example, perlite mixed with carnivorous compost would be a good low nutrient, free-draining media for cuttings.

Half-Hardy Perennial

A plant that lives for more than two years. It can be grown outdoors but requires winter protection from frosts and temperatures below 0C.





Term Description
Heavy Feeders Plants that need a lot of food to produce fruit or veg, lush new growth and stay green. Examples of heavy feeders are: Tomato plants, Citrus, Rhododendron, Azalea and Magnolia.
Humidity The amount of water vapour in the air at any given moment. This is measured in a percentage and is crucial for the survival of a number of different plants, particularly tropical and epiphytic species.   
Lithophyte A term that is given to a group of plants that grow in rocky/ stony environments. They usually require very free-draining compost/ large rocky growing media. There are a number of ferns such as Phlebodium and Davallia that would come under this category.
Misting Is the act of creating humidity around the house-plant leaves using a fine water spray.
Mulch A thick layer of material that is placed on the soil and around plants to retain moisture, suppress weeds and improve soil structure. Materials used for mulching include well-rotted manure or compost.
Multi-stem Three or more stems breaking at the base of the plant. A form often found in trees with ornamental bark.
Node The node is the point on the stem where the leaf or twig is attached. The node is where the growth tissue (meristematic tissue) is found and is the reason why cuttings are taken below the node.


Tomatoes are Heavy Feeders



Term Description
N-P-K The ratio of Nitrogen to Phosphorous to Potassium in a fertilizer.  These are the main nutrients required by plants. Nitrogen for leafy growth, Phosphorus for root growth and fruit/ flowers and Potassium to facilitate movement of water and nutrients around the plant.
Panicle Is a loose cluster of individual flowers that like a raceme, appear as one large flower. They are often found on the tips of stems and are conical in shape. This is a common garden flower feature of which Hydrangea paniculata showcases.
Peat Free Is a very current and common term used to determine whether compost contains peat (semi-decomposed plant material that acts as a carbon sink)
Perennial A plant that returns each year but dies down in September and returns again in March the following year. These plants are cut down to the ground level in late autumn with the exception of some grasses. Plants in this category live for up to 10 to 15 years and need dividing every five years to continue to be revitalised.
Propagation Is the process of growing new plants by various means such as sowing seeds and taking cuttings. Some plants are easier to propagate than others. A handful have very special requirements; even as extreme as smoke propagation, imitating wild bush fires.
Pruning  Is the act of removing dead, damaged and or diseased matter from the main plant. It is also the act of cutting back/ reducing the plant to encourage new growth, to reshape and to encourage fruiting/ flowering.
Raceme Is a hanging flower cluster where individual flowers are equidistantly arranged along a central stem. This gives the illusion of one large singular flower. A perfect example of this is Wisteria.


NPK nutrients for plants



Rambling Roses A fast-growing climbing thorny stemmed plant that produces an abundance of flowers all at the same time.
Rhizome Underground stems that grow horizontally, rather than vertically, beneath the surface of the soil. Each section of the rhizome produce roots and can take over vast areas if left alone. Canna, Lily of the valley and Ginger are all examples of rhizomatous plants. Rhizomes can very easily and successfully be divided.
Self-pollinating Is a plant that will produce fruit on its own without pollen from another plant. The majority of fruit trees in cultivation are self-pollinating, eliminating the need to plant multiple trees for cross-pollination.
Semi-Evergreen Is the name given to a plant that keeps roughly 70% of its foliage throughout winter. As a general rule, we tend to prune these plants after flowering in late spring.
Shrub A woody based plant that can be either evergreen or deciduous. Long-lived and used to create height and structure in the garden.
Temperate A term that is given to plants that originate from areas between the tropics and the poles that have a wide temperature range and distinct seasonal changes. The UK would be defined as having a temperate climate.
Tender Perennial A plant that lives for more than 2 years. It can be grown outdoors but requires winter protection from frosts and temperatures below 5C.
Terrestrial A plant that grows on, in or from the ground. The majority of plants found here in the UK would be classed as terrestrial.
Tropical A term that's given to plants that originate from regions between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn- Equator hugging. These areas have plenty of rainfall and humidity is very high.
Tuber A condensed root containing just enough kick-starter feed to start the plant each season before it can start making its own food. Examples of tuberous plants include: Begonia, Dahlia and Ranunculus.
Umbel Is a cluster of flowers in which individual flowers originate from one central point, giving the effect of a flat
Xerophyte Is a plant that has adapted to life in a dry, arid environment. Common features of xerophytic plants are fleshy leaves/ stems for water storage, spines to lower the surface area of the leaf to reduce transpiration or furry, silvery leaves to reflect light so the plant doesn’t get scorched. Cacti and succulents are classified as xerophytes.


Rambling Roses