Glossary for the Beginning Gardener

Are you a new gardener that is planning your first spring garden? Are you daunted by the plethora of gardening terminology used in catalogs, websites, on seed packages or starter plants at nurseries? Gardening can be a rich and rewarding activity, but it can also be a little confusing if you’ve never done it before—there is so much to learn!

Whether you are a new gardener who is planning their first spring garden, or are just thinking about getting your hands into the soil, learning some of the most used terms in the business can help.

Here’s a list of some of the most common gardening terms to help take the mystery out of gardening.

Emerging Daffodil sprouts in early Spring on rainy day 2

Plant & Seed Gardening Terms 

Annual: A plant that completes its full life cycle—blooms, produces seed and dies—in one year.

Bare root: Dormant plants that have been removed from the ground, along with their soil, and preserved until they can be planted at a later time.

Biennial: A plant that completes its full life cycle in two growing seasons. The plant produces leaves in the first season and flowers in the second season.

Bolting: A term used to describe a plant that has produced seeds prematurely.

Companion planting: The practice of planting two plants near each other to produce mutual benefits.

Cutting: A plant propagation method where a small part of the plant is clipped and dipped into a rooting solution and then placed in water to eventually grow roots for a brand new plant.

Deciduous: A plant that loses its leaves every fall or winter.

Dormancy: The period in which plants exhibit little to no growth, usually in winter. Also known as the resting period.

Everblooming: Flowers that produce a continuous supply of blossoms throughout a season.

Evergreen: A plant that retains its leaves throughout the growing season.

Fertilizer: An organic or synthetic material that is added to the soil and used to feed nutrients to plants.

Germination: The beginning of growth in seeds.

Heirloom: A plant variety that has remain unmodified for a period of 50 years or more.

Invasive: Plants that are non-native to an ecosystem or whose introduction is likely to cause harm.

Native plants: Plants that are indigenous to a given geographic area.

Open pollination: Seeds that develop as a result of naturally occurring pollination methods such as wind, insect or soil movement.

Ornamental: Plants grown solely for the way they look.

Perennial: Plants that live for multiple growing seasons.

Pollination: The process of transferring pollen from a flower’s stamen to the pistil which results in the forming of a seed.

Young boy holds soil in hands top view

Soil Terminology

Acidity: The measure of acidity or alkalinity in the soil. A pH level of 7 is neutral, a measurement above 7 is considered alkaline and a measurement below 7 is considered acidic.

Beneficial insect: An insect that benefits gardens by eating or laying eggs in other insects which helps to control pest populations from damaging or eating plants.

Compost: A mixture of decaying, organic materials (such as vegetable scraps) used as a soil conditioner, mulch or fertilizer.

Related: 80+ Items You Can Compost

Humus: The organic component of soil that is formed by the decomposition of leaves and other decaying plant material.

Micro-herd: A term that organic gardeners use for the beneficial microbes that digest and produce compost.

Mulch: Material such as bark, decaying leaves or compost that is spread around or over a plant to insulate or enrich the soil. Also helps to cool the soil and prevent erosion, evaporation and weeds.

Loam: Rich soil that consists of 25 percent clay, 50 percent silt and less than 50 percent sand.

Sand: The largest particles of minerals that make up soil.

Silt: Medium-size pieces of minerals that make up soil that are smaller than sand and larger than clay.

Soil texture: The proportion of clay to silt to sand in the soil.

Vermiculite: A light, spongy mineral that has been heated to cause it to expand so that it can hold water and air.

Waterlogged: Soil that has been saturated with water.

care of garden

Terms for Gardening Techniques

Cold frame: An unheated structure that is used to protect plants from frost.

Crop rotation: The practice of planting a specific crop in an area that is different from the previous year.

Dead heading: The practice of pinching or snipping off flowers that have bloomed and died.

Direct sowing: Germinating seeds directly into the ground or planting site.

Full sun: Used to describe plants that require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Hardiness zone: The geographic temperature zone that is used to categorize areas that plants can thrive.

Hybrid: When two different plants are crossbred to create distinct characteristics.

Pruning: The act of removing dead, diseased or damaged leaves or branches of a plant, bush or tree.

Staking: Using a stick, pole, trellis or other object to support a plant during its growing cycle.

Thinning: Removing or reducing plants or seedlings in order to allow better air circulation and light exposure.

Transplant: Removing plants, bushes or trees from one location and replanting them in another location.

Veganic Gardening: The method of growing plants and crops without the use of animal-sourced products such as fertilizers.

Related Reading at Care2:

Did you know all of the terms in this glossary list? Do you know any gardening terminology that isn’t listed here that would be helpful for beginners to know? Share it in the comments!


Sue H
Sue H25 days ago

Helpful information, thanks.

W. C
W. C11 months ago

Thank you.

Kelly S
Past Member about a year ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago


Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Francine J
Francine J.1 years ago

Here's more terminology:

RICKY S2 years ago


Peggy B
Peggy B2 years ago

Pinned for future reference

Elaine W
Elaine W2 years ago

Good to know the lingo!

Richard A
Richard A2 years ago

Thank you for this helpful article.