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Horticulture Terms 2.0

By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners

Last week we introduced a few basic terms in horticulture. Like any branch of science, botany and horticulture, are ripe with terms that have special meaning. And, like learning a foreign language, once you know what the words mean you can better understand information, articles, posts, and books to help you carry out your dreams for your gardens and yard.

These terms define what kind of plant we are talking about:

Woody: A plant with a hard stem.

Grass: A plant with thin narrow leaves growing from the base.

Bulb: A rounded underground storage. See PBMG blog article for 10/29/2022:

Conifer: A plant with needle shaped evergreen leaves that bears cones.

Deciduous: A tree or shrub which sheds its leaves.

Evergreen: A plant whose foliage remains green and is not shed.

Forb: An herbaceous plant; a plant without a woody stem.

Herb: Technically a seed plant without a woody stem: colloquially a plant which is used to flavor food, for medicine, or to smell.

Shrub: A shrub is woody and small.

Tree: A tree is woody and tall.

Vine: A plant with a weak stem that needs support; climbs by twining or with tendrils.

These terms help you get the best performance from the plants you grow:

Bare Root: Usually shrubs and trees that are sold with no soil on the roots. Keep roots moist before planting.

Compost: Decomposition of formerly living material making a soil type substance that is full of organic matter. Improves soil and makes a great fertilizer.

Drought Resistant: Plants that withstand little or no supplemental water. All plants must be watered until established and that time can vary from days to months.

Drought Tolerant: Can deal with drought and recover after wilting. Some watering required.

Exposure: Full sun=6 or more hours of direct sunlight. Partial sun=4 to 6 hours of direct sun. Dappled shade=mixture of sun and shade (usually due to a close tree, adjacent structure, or a tall plant).

Heat Tolerant: Flourishes despite West Texas temperatures in July and August.

Cold tolerant: Flourishes despite our West Texas temperatures in January and February.

Heavy Feeders: Require a lot of fertilizer to perform.

Mulch: An inorganic or organic substance that is used to cover bare soil. Mulch can slow moisture evaporation, prevent weeds and, in the case of organic mulches, break down into materials which improve soil fertility.

Plant Hardiness Zone: Used to determine which plants are most likely to do well in a certain geographic area. Use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, by typing in your address or zip code to locate a specific area. Find the map at:

Water Wise: Does well in yard that manages water conservatively.

Xeriscape: Planning that employs drought resistant plants to conserve and manage water use.

These terms will come in handy when you come to the Permian Basin Master Gardener plant sale on April 15. Now you can come prepared for the changes you want in your yard.

If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.

Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at Click on “Resources”.


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