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Plant Terms


Plant Terms

Perennial Any plant that lives more than three years and does not die after flowering once. The term is generally applied only to herbaceous plants, which die back to the ground each year, as opposed to those with persistent, woody stem. See Annual, Biennial.


Tuber An underground storage organ, part of either the stem or the root of the plant. Stem tubers produce multiple buds on their surface from which shoots may arise the following season, while root tubers will sprout only from the point at which they were attached to the stem of the parent plant.


Soil pH A measure of the acid-alkaline balance of the soil. The scale runs from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Soils with a pH below 7 become progressively more acid; and above 7 progressively more alkaline.


Species The basic unit of plant classification. Plants within a species have several characteristics in common, but most importantly, can cross with one another, but not normally with members of another species. The classification of species is quite fluid, with period revision by botanists a fact of life that gardeners are forced to contend with.


Forcing To bring a plant into earlier growth, generally by raising the temperature or by transplanting into a warmer situation. Tulips and paperwhites are examples of popularly forced plants.


Cormel A small, underdeveloped corm, usually attached to a larger corm. See Bulbil, Bulblet.


Division The breaking or cutting apart of the crown of a plant for the purpose of producing additional plants, all genetically identical to the parent plant.


Crown The base of a plant, where stem and root join, usually, but not always at ground level.


Beneficial insects Insects that help rather than hinder gardening efforts. They may do this by pollinating flowers, by eating harmful insects or parasitizing them, or by breaking down plant material in the soil, thereby releasing its nutrients. Some insects could be considered both harmful and beneficial, e.g.: butterflies, which are beautiful in their adult form but destructive when in their larval, or caterpillar form.


Annual A plant grown from seed that flowers, seeds and dies in one season. See Biennial, Perennial.


Biennial A plant grown from seed that under normal conditions takes two years to complete its life cycle, developing a leafy tuft or rosette the first season then flowers, seeds and dying the second year. See Annual, Perennial.


Bare Root Transplant A soilless young plant lifted from a seedbed for transplanting, as opposed to a module or potted plant.


Corm An underground storage organ consisting of the swollen base of a stem, with roots attached to the underside. See also Bulb, Tuber, Rhizome


Botanical Insecticide Insecticide , such as rotenone and pyrethrum, derived from a plant. Most botanicals biodegrade quickly and have low toxicity to mammals.


Acid soil Any soil with a pH reading below 7.0 on a scale of 1-14; the lower the reading, the more acid the soil. See pH.


Bt Bacillus thuringiensis. Biological insecticide that kills caterpillars but is harmless to the environment and higher warm blooded animals.



  • Set out winter-blooming annuals
  • Plant winter- and spring-blooming bulbs
  • Repot cacti and succulents, if essential, once they have finished blooming
  • Plant bare-root fruit trees
  • Plant citrus
  • Cut back on feeding houseplants (do not feed dormant houseplants)
  • Plant winter-blooming perennials
  • Plant bare-root roses
  • Plant bare-root shrubs and vines
  • Prune fall- and winter-flowering shrubs and vines just after bloom
  • Plant bare-root trees
  • Sow cool-season or winter vegetable seeds


  1. The same depth as the rootball, and 3 times wider.
  2. Lay the tree or shrub down on it’s side and carefully slide it out, or cut the container away from it. Don’t pull it by the trunk.
  3. Place the root ball in the hole, spreading out the roots and keeping the soil level.
  4. Refill the hole with garden soil. Roots should grow into surrounding soil.
  5. Dig a trench around the plant to make a temporary water basin.
  6. Water thoroughly using low pressure from a hose.
  7. Prune only diseased, damaged or broken limbs and stems.
  8. Add organic mulch around the plant at a depth of about 3”, at least 1″ away from the trunk.
  9. Water often the first year until established.

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