important gardening words

The gardening community has its own language or jargon that might intimidate new gardeners. Here is a useful list of the important gardening words any new gardener should know.

Words related to plant growth


They are plants that complete their life cycle in one season. Take the example of a tomato plant. It grows from spring until the first freeze. That makes it an annual. To grow another tomato, you need to start a new plant from seed or cutting.


Bolting is another word for flowering. The plant starts bolting or sending a flowering stem to ensure its reproduction.


Biennials are plants that complete their life cycle in two seasons. The first season is for foliage development, while the second is for reproduction or flowering.


Buttoning is the term that describes the incomplete development of a cauliflower or broccoli head. It is mainly the result of environmental stresses such as high temperatures.

Cold hardy

The plant is cold-hardy when it can survive a certain degree of low temperatures. A plant that is cold hardy up to 32F (0C) may freeze and die back. But it will grow back once the temperatures are up.

important gardening words for beginners


Deadheading is the process of cutting of pinching off the spent flowers. Most flowering plants require some deadheading to clean them up from their own dead material.


Perennials are plants that live for more than one season. They reach the reproduction stage season after another.

Stunted growth

Stunted growth is the term used to describe poor growth of a given plant.

Sheer back

This is the process of cutting back a plant, mainly shrubs, to a lower height, either to promote new growth or to clean it up.

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Seed and propagation related words


Cotyledons are the first set of leaves a plant send after germinating.

A cutting

A cutting is a piece of a plant branch or a stem used to create a new one.


Germination is the stage where the seed wakes up from its dormancy and starts its life.

Hardening off

Hardening off is the process of introducing seedlings to outdoor elements gradually.


Propagation is the cloning or the duplication of a given plant to create a new one by seeds or cuttings.


Sometimes the seed coat is too hard and does not absorb water to kick-start the germination. To solve this problem, we need to scratch the seed surface to stimulate it and bring it out of dormancy. This is the scarification process


Sowing is the act of planting a seed. Some seeds are sown directly in the ground, while others are started indoors to get a head start on the season.

important gardening words


This is another way to break a seed’s dormancy. It exposes the seed to alternate cold and warm temperatures, imitating nature’s changing seasons.

Fertilization-related words

Bone meal

It is a high phosphorous fertilizer made of ground animal bones.

Blood meal

It is a powder made of dried animal blood. It is high in nitrogen.

Foliar feed

Foliar feeding is another method of feeding the plants by spraying liquid fertilizer on the foliage.

Fish emulsion

Fish emulsion is an organic fertilizer very common in organic gardening. It is made of processed fish and fish carcasses.

Heavy feeder

Heavy feeders are plants that require frequent feeding or fertilizing to perform well.

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Side dressing

Side dressing is the additional fertilization during the growing season to replenish the soil surrounding the plant. It is done by sprinkling dry fertilizer or compost around the plant’s base.

Slow-release fertilizer

Slow-release fertilizer comes in the form of pellets or granules. The nutrients leach into the soil based on the microbes’ activity, which depends on temperature.

Liquid seaweed

Just like the name suggests, it is a fertilizer derived from seaweed. The latter is collected, then left to ferment and breakdown in water to turn into a usable slurry.

Water-soluble fertilizer

This is a dry fertilizer that dissolves in water to be able to feed the plants.

Weather-related terms


Frost is the formation of ice particle on to surfaces.


A freeze is when the temperatures drops to 32F (0C). We might get a frost with a freeze and we might not.

Hard freeze

There are three levels of freeze:

  • A light freeze is when the temperatures are between 32F-29F (0C, -2C). It may kill tender plants.
  • A hard freeze is when the temperatures are between 28F-25F (-3C, -4C). This one can kill a wider range of crops and plants.
  • A Sever freeze is when the temperatures are below 24F (-5C). It can cause great damage.


It is the prolonged period of low to no rainfall.

Sun exposure

Full sun

It is the direct exposure to sunlight for more than six hours.

Part sun or part shade

It is the exposure of four to six hours of direct sunlight.


It is the exposure of less than four hours to direct sunlight.

Dappled shade

This is when the area has a mix of sun and shade exposure, most likely under a tree.

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