Basic Gardening Language You Should Know

Your not expected to be a gardening linguistic expert, to get started in gardening, however knowing some of the commonly used gardening terms that are found on plant labels and garden centre websites would be extremely advantageous.

If you want to check out more gardening terms then feel free to check out our gardening glossary.


What are annuals?

Quite simply annuals last for just one season. They grow from seed, then flower, produce seed and then die. Annual plants come under two categories, hardy and half-hardy

Hardy annuals

What is a hardy annual?

These plants can tolerate the cold, which means that you can sow them outdoors in the spring and once the soil warms up enough, they will germinate and flower. Hardy annuals will usually flower earlier than half hardy annuals.


Agrostemma githago, 'Milas' Corn Cockle hardy annual plant -
Agrostemma githago, ‘Milas’ Corn Cockle
Anchusa capensis Blue Angel
Anchusa capensis, ‘Blue Angel’

Celosia spicata, 'Flamingo Feathers'
Celosia spicata, ‘Flamingo Feathers’

Half-hardy annuals

What is a half-hardy annual?

These plants hate cold and are killed by frost, you can’t plot them out until after the last frost. Then they keep growing and flowering until they are killed by the first frost in autumn.


Nicotiana ‘Havana Appleblossom’
Nicotiana ‘Havana Appleblossom’

Tagetes patula ‘Honeycomb’ French marigold
Tagetes patula ‘Honeycomb’ French marigold

Cleome hassleriana ‘Senorita Rosalita’ Spider flower
Cleome hassleriana ‘Senorita Rosalita’ Spider flower


What are biannual plants? 

Well these are plants that take roughly 2 years to flower, you will sow them this year and then they will flower next year. Some will complete their life-cycle in two years, however some may last several years.


Delphinium 'Astolat'
Delphinium ‘Astolat’
Evening Primrose
Oenothera biennis (common evening-primrose)
foxglove plants in a field
Digitalis purpurea Excelsior – Foxgloves


What is a perennial plant? 

These are plants that usually live for two or more years. These plants usually die down to a rootstock every autumn and then spring back to life in the spring. To confuse things further some perennials don’t actually die down in winter.

Hardy perennials

What is a hardy perennial?

A hardy perennial plant is a plant that you can leave in the ground all year round, basically it can tolerate the cold and it is not affected by frost. You can actually leave them in the ground a few years before they would actually need to be dug up and divided.


Potted Red Hot Poker - Plant Kniphofia uvaria
Potted Red Hot Poker Kniphofia uvaria 

Toad Lily
Toad Lily – Tricyrtis hirta

Lampranthus 'Fire Spinner'
Delosperma ‘Fire Spinner’

Half hardy perennials

What is a half hardy perennial?

Well these are pretty much the same as hardy perennials except for one little thing, they hate the cold. They can survive for years but frost will kill them. Half hardy perennials must be kept indoors or in a heated greenhouse over winter.


Passiflora quadrangularis
Passiflora quadrangularis – Passionfruit Granadilla
Dahlia variabilis
Dahlia variabilis
Chrysanthemum 'Dixter Orange'
Chrysanthemum ‘Dixter Orange’

Bedding plants

What are bedding plants?

Bedding plants is a term given to plants which provide a temporary decorative display seasonally, they can be used in beds, containers, borders and hanging baskets. You can even use to fill the gap around the garden.

They can be grown from seed and transplanted, or bought as plant plugs, multipacks or cellular trays ready for planting.

You can use half hardy annuals, half hardy perennials, bulbs and even shrubs as bedding plants.

To give an example most public gardens change the bedding plants displays twice a year, replanting in late spring for summer and early autumn for winter/spring.

Petunia Surfinia
Petunia ‘Surfinia
Begonia semperflorens
Begonia semperflorens
Pansy flowers

Woody plants

What are woody plants?

 A woody plant is a plant that produces would as its structural tissue above the ground. They include trees, shrubs and climbers. An example of Woody climber is Ivy.

Cornus alba Sibirica - Siberian Dogwood
Cornus alba Sibirica – Siberian Dogwood
Ivy growing up a wall

Deciduous Plants

What are deciduous plants?

These are plants that will lose their leaves in the autumn every year replacing them in the spring.
Trees being the obvious plants here.

Evergreen plants

What are evergreen plants?

These are plants that keep their leaves all year round, this is kind of true as they do shed old leaves here and there throughout the year.

Azalea japonica Pink
Azalea japonica Pink 

Semi-evergreen plants

What is a semi-evergreen plant?

Sometimes you get plants labelled as semi evergreen. These are plants that just can’t make up their minds, in a mild winter or sheltered location they tend to keep their leaves. Whilst during a cold winter or expose location they will shed their leaves.