Gardening Glossary Terms

Instructions: To use our gardening glossary simply click the letter of the alphabet to display the list of popular gardening terms and phrases!


Acid Soil

Soil which contains no free lime and has a PH lower than 7.


The loosening of soil by digging or by other mechanical means to allow air to move freely.

Aerial Roots

These roots are above the ground and are generally used as a way of clinging to host plants and rocks. Plants with aerial roots include ivy and many orchids. Browse available orchids at Suttons


A hardy annual is a temporary visitor to the garden as it grows from seed (sown direct in the garden),flowers and dies in a single season. A half hardy annual also grows, flowers and dies in a single season but the seedlings need to be grown indoors and not planted out until the risk of frost has gone.

Bare Root

These are plants that are supplied not in a pot and with no soil around the roots. These plants are supplied when dormant and typically include roses, fruit trees and some shrubs. View Roses on Suttons


A flower bearing two distinctly different


A plant that takes two years to reach fruiting or flowering. The seed of biennials is sown one year to flower the next. Leaves are produced in the first year and then flowering and the setting of seed takes place in the second year. The plant then dies.

Biological Pest Control

These are natural and effective methods of controlling garden pests.Browse the range of Nemasys Biological Pest Control Solutions


Level of sweetness.


The premature production of flowers and seed.This is where the plant grows too fast due to being either too wet, too dry or in very hot weather, resulting in the stem shooting up and the plant producing its seed too early or ‘going to seed’. To avoid this, simply grow a ‘bolt resistant’ variety eg. Beetroot Boltardy.


A bulbous plant produces an underground fleshy storage organ (a bulb) which is then planted in the garden and from which the plant grows and flowers. Corms, tubers and rhizomes are all types of storage organ.Browse the Flower Bulbs available at Suttons


Encouraging your potatoes to sprout shoots before you plant them to give them the best start. Leave them in an open box on a light windowsill until the shoots are approx 2cm long. Browse Seed Potatoes on Suttons


A plant that climbs by twining around or clinging to a support.


Used to protect young plants from wind and cold a cloche is a clear cover, usually made from either plastic or glass.

Cold Frame

An unheated rigid container usually with access through the roof. Browse our range of Cold Frames


A plant that is pruned in such a way as to restrict growth to one main stem.

Crop Rotation

The process of moving families of crops around your vegetable plot each year in order to avoid pests and diseases and to maintain good fertile soil.


The bottom part of a plant from which the roots grow downwards.


A plant that has been specifically selected and bred for its characteristics and is not usually cross-pollinated.


This is a method of propagation and involves taking stem cuttings from a mother plant and growing them on to produce new plants. When and how to take cuttings depends on the type of plant involved.

Damping Down

Wetting the floor and staging of the greenhouse to reduce the temperature and increase the humidity.

Damping Off

The collapse of seedlings and young plants due a fungal disease which rots the base of the stem.

Dead heading

The removal of faded flowers to prevent self-seeding, to tidy the plants and to stimulate further flower production.


A plant that loses its leaves in winter.

Direct Sow

Many types of seed are suitable for being sown directly in the garden rather than in seed trays or propagators.


A plants natural resting period, normally between Autumn and Winter but in some plants can be during the Summer.


A shallow groove in the soil prepared for sowing seeds.

Earthing Up

Drawing soil up around a plant to exclude light, promote root growth from the stem or for winter

Easiplants (Value Plug Plants)

Larger than Miniplants (Extra Value Plug Plants) these are sturdy young plants at an early stage of growth. Grow on for a short time before planting out.


A tree (usually fruit) with the main stem vertical and the branches trained along horizontal wires.

Everbearing Strawberries

This type of strawberry does not send out many runners and produces 2 or 3 harvests between spring and autumn.


A plant that retains its leaves all year round.

Ericaceous Plants

These are lime-hating plants and need to be grown in acidic (ericaceous) soil.

Extra value plugs (Miniplants)

The most cost effective plants you can buy. These are our best value plug plants. We’ve germinated the seeds for you and grown them into small plants. They will need to be potted on, which will take a little care, but you know how many plants you will get and the value is superb. Each plant costs as little as 9p.

F1 Hybrid

A first generation cross between two stable parents. More vigorous and uniform than an ordinary hybrid. Does not breed true.

F2 Hybrid

A plant produced by crossing F1 hybrids. Usually less vigorous than an F1 hybrid. Does not breed true.


The reproductive organ of the plant.

Foliar Feed

A fertiliser that is sprayed on and absorbed through the leaves.

Garden Ready Plants

Large bedding plants with strong root systems ready to go straight into the garden or containers.

Garden Ready Plugs

Superb value plants – plant straight into the garden! The great solution to busy times, these plants have been grown on to the point where they are ready to plant in your garden. They will represent great value and leave you free to sit back and enjoy watching them grow.


A group of related species linked by common characteristics.


The sprouting of a dormant seed following the provision of water, warmth and light.

Going to seed

Where a plant stops producing flowers and starts producing seeds.


The union of two growing stems from two different plants; usually a strong root stock with a tasty fruiting variety or an abundant flowering variety. This produces a super-strong plant that has a greater resistance to pests and disease and provides a much greater crop over a longer period.

Green Manure

A quick growing leafy crop grown specifically to be dug back in to enrich the soil. see the available Green manure on Suttons.

Ground Cover

Low growing plants that quickly cover the soil and suppress weeds.

Growing On

The process of transferring seedlings to larger pots and allowing them to increase in size before planting in their final position.

Growing Point

The tip of a shoot.


A plant that needs to start growing indoors and can then be planted out when the danger of frost has passed.

Half-hardy Annual

A plant that completes its life cycle in a single growing season The seeds need heat to germinate and should be sown in a heated greenhouse or propagator.

Half-hardy Perennial (Tender Perennial)

A perennial that can be grown outdoors during the summer months but that needs to be protected from frost during the winter.

Hardening off

The process of acclimatisating plants, before planting them outside in the garden, that have been grown in a heated greenhouse or indoors. In late spring plants are moved outdoors on mild days but given the protection of a coldframe or greenhouse at night. This toughens them in readiness for leaving outside all of the time.


A plant that has a high tolerance to the weather extremes (frost, drought) and can be planted directly outside.

Hardy Perennial

A perennial plant that will tolerate frost and can be left in the garden throughout the year.

Heavy Soil

Soil that has a high proportion of clay and so is “heavy” to work.

Heeling In

Temporary planting prior to moving the plant or tree to its final position.


A plant grown for its flavour or medicinal properties. Browse our Herbs here


A plant that does not form a woody stem and dies down to ground level at the end of the growing season..

Herbaceous Plant

A non-woody plant that dies back losing its top growth at the end of its growing season, usually in autumn. New growth appears in spring.


Decayed vegetable matter, including compost and leaf mold.


The cross-breeding of two plants chosen for their particular qualities (eg. disease resistance, tasty fruit, greater yields), resulting in a new variety that has all the good traits of the parent plants.


Used to control or kill insects.


Section of stem between two nodes.


Planting different species together.


The controlled supply of water to plants. Browse our watering systems.

Jiffy 7® peat pellets

Expandable peat pellets used for giving seeds the best start. No mess, just add water!

John Innes Compost

Loam based composts made to a standard formula.

Knot Garden

Formal garden with beds in a complex pattern separated by dwarf hedges.


A method of propagation where the shoot is left attached to the parent plant.


The main stem of a plant or tree.


Tall, spindly growth.


A side shoot on the stem of a plant.


The amount of lime in soil determines whether it is alkaline, acid or neutral.

Lime Free

Referring to an acid soil.

Lime Tolerant

A plant that will grow in a chalky soil.


Medium soil that is easy to work and is well balanced.


A grafted tree in its first year of growth.


Vegetables that crop throughout the main growing season.

Marginal Plants

A plant that likes to grow in constantly moist soil, either at the edge of a pond or stream.

Miniplants (Extra Value Plug Plants)

Strong healthy seedlings grown in mini cells of compost for easy transplanting. Grow on in a warm light place for a few weeks before planting outside.


Small containers used to hold seedlings.


A layer of bulky organic matter placed around the stems of a plant.


A mutually beneficial association between a fungus and a plant’s roots.


A plant that naturally occurs in the wild.


To establish and allow to grow as if in a wild, natural space.


Sugary liquid produced by plants to attract pollinating insects.


pH7 which is not acid or alkaline.

Neutral Soil

Neither acid nor alkaline.


The point on a stem at which leaves, buds and stems occur.


The symbols for the three main chemicals in fertilizers, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Nursery Bed

An area used for germinating seeds and for establishing young plants prior to planting them in the final positions.


Minerals required for healthy plant growth.


A young plant that naturally forms at the base of the parent plant, or with bulbs, against the main bulb.


An aquatic plant that releases oxygen into the water.


Partially decayed humus rich material often used in compost.


A plant that will grow for a number of years, flowering each season. Depending on the variety and sowing time the plants may not flower in the first year. Will generally be hardy so that it can survive the winter. See also – Hardy Perennial and Tender Perennial. Browse our range of comprehensive perennial plants.


Plants that flower almost continuously throughout a long growing season.


A measure of acidity in the soil. pH 7 is neutral. Below pH 7 is acid and above pH7 is alkaline.

Pinching out

To encourage the growth of bushy side shoots you will need to pinch out the growing tip of the plant. This can be done with veg, flowers and herbs. Note: This process is not required for trailing, bush or hanging basket tomatoes.

Plug plant

A healthy young plant rooted individually in a compost plug and ready to be planted out.

Pot ready plant

Larger plant for growing on in pots or containers prior to planting outdoors.

Potting up/on

Transferring your seedlings or young plants into larger pots so they have more room to continue growing.

Pricking out

Once your seedlings have germinated they need a bit more room to grow so should be transferred into a larger seed tray or individual pots to encourage growth.


The increase of plants by a variety of methods. See our range of propagating equipment.


We all like peace and quiet while gardening… if only those damn bees and birds would shut up (only kidding!)


A horizontal fleshy swollen stem usually underground but occasionally at soil level.


Usually underground this is the part of the plant through which water and nutrients are absorbed.

Root Ball

The roots and accompanying soil when a plant is lifted.

Root Crops

Vegetables grown for their edible roots, e.g. carrots, potatoes, etc.


The production of roots.


A plant to which the scion is grafted. Usually to provide the plant with increased vigour, and disease resistance.


A spreading shoot that roots to form new plants.


The juice of a plant.


A shoot or bud cut from one plant for grafting onto the rootstock of another.


The ripened fertilised ovule containing a dormant embryo capable of growing into being a plant.


A young plant grown from a seed.

Self Seeder

A plant that freely distributes seed.


A young stem, twig or bud.


Removing the small shoots that grow in the ‘V’ space between the main stem and leaf branches on tomato plants. This is required to ensure the plant dedicates its energy to producing fruits.


The removal or pinching out of a stem’s growing point to promote a branching habit.

Succession cropping

The process of sowing seed every few weeks to ensure regular cropping throughout a season eg. Sow lettuce seed every two weeks for salad leaves throughout the summer.

Super plugs (pot ready plants)

Raised from cuttings and lovingly nurtured by us! Some of the highest quality varieties have to be nurtured from cuttings. These are then pinched out to provide an extra-robust plant, which is ready to thrive in your garden or pots. For very best results you may want to pot these on in the greenhouse for a few weeks before planting them out in their final location.

Tap Root

A strong downward growing root.


A plant likely to suffer frost damage if unprotected.

Tender Perennial (Half-hardy Perennial)

A perennial that can be grown outdoors during the summer months but that needs to be protected from frost during the winter.

Thinning out

The removal of overcrowded seedlings – usually from outside sowings. These surplus seedlings are normally discarded or in the case of salad crops such as lettuce, can be eaten.


The physical characteristics of the soil, ie. A good tilth – a finely raked, crumbly structure with the right moisture content.


The art of clipping and training shrubs, plants and trees into recognisable shapes.


Moving a plant from one position in the garden to another.


Swollen underground storage organ.


Planting low-growing plants beneath taller ones to suppress weeds.

Upright Habit

Plants that have vertical or semi-vertical branches.

Value plugs (easiplants)

Great value young plants – all ready to grow on! These plants have been grown on in larger plugs and while they will still need potting on they are larger and a little more robust. From as litle as 25p a plant they can provide the perfect balance between value and effort.


Leaves that are spotted, edged or blotched with a different colour to the main colour.


The control of air movement in a greenhouse or frame to regulate the temperature.


A lightweight mineral used in some types of compost to aid water retention.


A soil that is saturated with water after heavy rainfall, or over-watering Can also be due to poor drainage.


A plant growing in the wrong place.


A young plant with no lateral shoots.


Two tools that can be used to aid ‘pricking out’ and ‘potting on’. The Widger removes the seedling and the Dibber makes a hole in the compost for it to be placed into.


A type of plant well adapted to withstand water shortages and with natural ways of storing its own water, e.g. succulents and cacti.


The amount of harvest produced.


An important trace element in soil that gives fruit and vegetables their sweet taste.


A new fern in its early stages of growth.