House Plant Glossary

Air layering A method of propagating a single stemmed plant which has lost its lower leaves.

Areole A hairy, cushion-like area found at the base of the spines on cacti.

Bleeding When sap is lost from a plant after it has been cut.

Bract A modified, often brightly coloured leaf which grows near the calyx of a flower.

Bulb An underground bud from which flowers and leaves grow.

Cactus Succulent plant with a thick, fleshy stem. Usually has spines and brightly coloured flowers, but no leaves.

Calyx A ring of leaves around a bud or flower.

Capillary action Natural tendency for water to be drawn upwards.

Coloured leaf Leaf with colours other than green, white or cream. See variegated.

Compost A mixture of peat or loam with other ingredients which supports plant roots in a pot.

Crown Upper part of root often projecting from the surface of soil.

Cutting A leaf or a stem which is used to propagate a plant.

Dormant Period when plant naturally stops growing, usually in winter. Leaves may fall and top growth dies down.

Exotic An unusual and/or striking plant or flower.

Fi Hybrid Product of two pure bred plants, but itself produces no seed. Fertilizer Chemical sub-stances used to stimulate and sustain plant growth. Flower spike Stem on which flowers grow.

Foliar Relating to leaves as in foliar feed which is absorbed through the leaves of a plant.

Forcing Making plants flower earlier than would occur naturally.

Frond The leaf of a palm or


Fungicide Chemical used to

kill diseases caused by


Germination When bulbs or seeds start to grow. Growing point The tip of a stem from which upward growth occurs. Growing season Period when plants start to grow again, usually from March to October.

Honeydew A sweet, clear

nectar produced by some


Humidity Moisture in


Hybrid Plant produced by

two parents of different


Hygrometer Instrument

which measures the amount

of water in the air.

Inorganic Term often applied to fertilizer or other chemicals to mean a substance derived from a source which has never been alive. e.g. minerals.

Lateral stems Branches growing out sideways from main stem.

Leaf node The point where leaf joins stem. Loam Soil which contains clay, sand and rotted vegetable matter.

Micro-climate Climate produced by plants growing close together. Misting Very fine water spray. Mutated Branched.

Offshoots Small plants produced by mother plant. Organic Term often applied to fertilizer or other chemicals to mean a substance derived from a source which has been alive, e.g. rotted vegetable matter Osmosis The tendency of water to pass through a fine membrane.

Peat Partly decomposed

vegetable matter used in

composts as it retains


Pesticide A chemical used

to kill pests.

Pinch out To remove the

growing point of a stem to

encourage the plant to

become bushy or to flower.

Plantlet A small plant.

Plunging Watering a plant

by placing it up to its rim in


Pot-bound When a pot is too small to allow a plant’s roots to grow.

Resting period Time when plant growth stops, but leaves do not fall. See dormant.

Rosette Collection of leaves shaped like a rose. Rootball Collection of fine roots around main central root.

Sap Vital liquid circulating in plants.

Secondary leaves Leaves which appear on a seedling after the first set of leaves.

Sharp sand An ingredient of compost; feels coarse to the touch.

Shrub Woody plant (smaller than a tree) with branches that divide near the ground and no central stem. Spadix Spike carrying both male and female flowers. Specimen plant A single large plant which provides a focal point for a room.

Sphagnum moss A water-retaining moss which grows easily. Used for hanging baskets and for orchids.

Spore A tiny cell-like seed from which plants like ferns grow.

Succulent A plant with thick, fleshy leaves and stem which store water. Systemic A fertilizer or pesticide absorbed into a plant through the leaves or roots.

Top dressing Covering the top of a potted plant’s soil with fresh compost.

Variegated Leaf which is green with white, cream or yellow blotches, or edges on it.

Ventilate Expose to the air.

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