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.

In this Guide
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    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.