The Richmond Register

March 19, 2013

Common horticulture terms

By Amanda Sears
Extension Agent

MADISON COUNTY — As the time to start seeds or purchase plants approaches, I thought it might be nice to have review some common terms used in horticulture and gardening.

Annual plants are plants that grow, flower and die during one growing season, or between the last spring frost and first fall frost. Marigolds, cosmos and zinnia are among the many common annuals.

Perennials that aren’t frost tolerant are frequently sold as annuals in the Rocky Mountain region.

Biennial plants are plants that take two years to complete their life cycles.

During the first growing season, most biennials produce a rosette of leaves. During the second growing season they flower, go to seed, and die. Foxglove, sweet William, money plant and mullein are among the common biennials.

Perennial plants normally live for three or more growing seasons. Trees, shrubs and many flowers and vegetables are perennials. Rhubarb, asparagus, chrysanthemums and bearded iris are just a few examples.

Trees are defined as woody plants that have one main stem and are at least 12 to 15 feet tall.

The line between what's considered a tall shrub and a small tree is vague.

Some plants might be classified as either.

Common trees include ash, maple, cottonwood and Colorado blue spruce.

Shrubs are woody plants that branch from the base and are generally less than 12 to 15 feet tall. Dogwood and sumac are shrubs.

Vines are plants that trail over the ground or climb either by twining or attaching their appendages to a wire, trellis or some other supporting structure. Trumpet vine, clematis, Virginia creeper and grape are examples of common vines.

Bulbs are modified buds with fleshy scales that are either leaf-like or concentric like onions. They're usually underground storage structures. Tulips, onions, daffodils and true lilies grow from bulbs.

Corms are the enlarged fleshy base of a stem. They’re bulb-like, but not solid. Gladiolus and freesia are examples.

Rhizomes are underground stems that are often enlarged to store food for storage. Bearded iris and daylily are examples.

Tubers are thickened portions of a subterranean stem or branch, provided with eyes or buds on the sides. Potato and dahlia are examples.

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