Gardening Lingo 101

A lesson in Lingo from Frankie Flowers! Gardening can be a whole different language for those new to getting dirt under their fingernails. While a trip to the local garden centre may seem intimidating if you lack the vocabulary, a few key words will have you blooming there this summer.


Deciduous means “to fall off at maturity,” and in the plant world, this describes a tree or shrub whose leaves shed in the fall, such as an oak or maple. The opposite of a deciduous tree is an evergreen like a conifer or a pine.


Taking two seasons to complete their life cycle, biennials like sweet William and foxglove grow leaves the first year, flower and set seed the second year, and then die.


The nitrogen (N) to phosphorous (P) to potassium (K) ratio of immediately available nutrients in fertilizer, listed on the package, commonly 20-20-20 (20% nitrogen, 20% phosphorous, 20% potassium). Remember that nitrogen stimulates green or leafy growth, phosphorous promotes flowering and root growth, and potassium stimulates the plants’ overall health.


“Medicine” for your plants’ fungal diseases, such as black spot or powdery mildew. For an organic option, consider copper sulphate (Bordeaux mixture).

Soil pH

pH indicates the level of acidity in soil and affects the amount of nutrients that plants can take up. Measured on a scale of 0-14, pH 7 is neutral, anything lower is acidic or sour, and anything above is alkaline or sweet.


A plant with soft—or non-woody—stems, herbaceous perennials like sedums and campanulas will generally die back to the ground and regrow every season from the root.


A pesticide that combats the adults, eggs and larvae of destructive insects in your garden. Look for solutions with minimal impact to you and the environment. When in doubt, choose products that say natural or organic on the label.


Treatment for the control of weeds. While non-selective herbicides can control all plant types, look for selective herbicides to control only your broad-leafed weeds.



Deadheading is the removal of spent or finished flowers on annuals and perennials to encourage future buds and extend the blooming season a bit longer. Plants like peonies and Shasta daisies should be deadheaded just below the flower, while other long-stemmed flowers like coral bells (Heuchera cultivars.) should be trimmed to the base.


Similar to pruning, pinching is the act of removing soft plant growth from the growing tips for the stimulation of dormant buds that will produce future leaves and stems.