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The language of plants

There are dictionaries of plant terms containing lots of words you will never have need of, - the following are several groups of those word you are most likely encounter.

Deciduous and Evergreen

Deciduous plants drop their leaves in winter, produce new foliage in the spring, such as oak or lilac.

Evergreen plants retain their leaves throughout the winter, including laurel and holly.

Hardy, half-hardy, and tender

Hardy plant can survive outdoors all year round without protection. Obviously, plants that are hardy in mild area may not be hardy in colder area.

Half-hardy plants need protection when the temperature drops to freezing.

Tender plants will suffer in cold weather, even before it reaches freezing point.

Acid loving and alkaline loving

Acid loving plants grow best in soil that has a pH lower than 7 - i.e. soil that contains no lime. Such plants include rhododendrons and camellias, and are often also known as calcifuges (lime haters).

alkaline loving plants grow best in a soil that has a pH figure over 7 - i.e. soil that contains lime. Plants include lilac, the butterfly bush (buddleia) and fuchsia.

Single, double and semi-double

Single flowers have a single whorl of petals. Most wild plants have single flowers.

Semi-double flowers have two or three rows of petals in layers.

Double flowers have many rows of petals and usually no stamens.

Annual, biennial, and herbaceous perennial

Annual plant germinates from seed, grows, flowers and dies all in the same season; for example, snapdragons, marigolds and sunflowers.

Biennial plant is sown in summer, overwinters outdoors, flowers in the following spring or early summer and then dies; for example, wallflowers, sweet Williams and Canterbury bells.

Herbaceous perennial plant usually dies down in autumn or winter, reappears in spring and flowers in the second year. Perennials live for at least two years, some for much longer, and include the familiar Michaelmas daisy and hollyhock.


These plants clamber up and over walls, fences and other plants. there are three groups: those that are self clinging, using sucker pads, such as ivy; those that naturally twine around other plants ( a good example is honeysuckle); and those that hold on using tendrils - sweet peas for example.

Bulbs, corms and tubers

These are usually all called bulbs, but there is a difference.

True bulbs, such as daffodils or onions, are make up of thickened leaves.

Corms, by contrast, are thickened stems and are solid and hard. They include crocus and gladiolus.

A tuber is a thickened root - a dahlia or a potato, for example.

A rhizome is a thickened underground stem, as seen in a bearded iris.


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