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Useful Plant Terminology

Annual – A plant that completes its entire life cycle within one year and then dies. An example of an annual is a begonia.

Perennial – A plant that will live for more than two years. Roses are perennials.

Tree – A tree is a woody, perennial plant. It generally has a single stem, referred to as a trunk, and grows to a considerable height. It will also have lateral branches appearing some distance above the ground. The maple tree is one example.

Shrub – Shrubs are woody plants that are smaller than trees. They have multiple stems beginning at or close to the ground. The boxwood is one variety of shrub species.

Vine – Vines are a variety of plants that have a long and slender stem that trails along the ground or climbs up a support such as a post or trellis. Morning glories, ivy, and grapes are all different examples of vines.

Tropical Plant – Any variety of plant that naturally flourishes in the Tropics, a band around the equator. The hibiscus is a tropical flower, as is the orchid.

Fruit Tree – A tree that bears fruit. Fruit is further defined as the part of the plant containing its seeds. Any tree that flowers will produce fruit which may or may not be fit for human consumption. Familiar examples of fruit trees are apple trees and cherry trees.

Vegetable Plant – Any plant whose seeds, roots, bulbs, stems, tubers, leaves, or flower parts are used as food. These include potatoes, spinach, onions, asparagus, and broccoli.

Herb – Any plant that has leaves, seeds, or flowers that are used for food, medicine, flavouring, or perfume. These plants lack a woody stem and die down at the end of growing season. Rosemary, parsley, and dill are all varieties of herbs.

Cane – A hollow or spongy variation of a plant stem that is usually slender and flexible, featuring joints. These stems also include slender, woody stems common in elongated flowering or fruiting plants.

Sucker – A shoot that grows from the base of a tree or other plant, particularly from the roots below ground level.

Hardiness Zones – These are geographic areas that have been set to show a range of climate conditions relevant to plant growth and survival. A plant will be described as “hardy to” a certain zone, such as zone 7, which means it can withstand the minimum average temperature recorded in that area per year.

Graft – A method in which tissues of plants are joined so they continue to grow together.

Dormant – The period when growth and development are temporarily stopped. In plants, this is usually seen in seasons that are unsuitable for their growth, such as winter or a dry season.


Potting/Container Soil – A sterilized, weed-free packaged soil mix that is formulated to produce the maximum results for most plants.

Soilless Mix – A potting medium that contains a variety of substrates such as peat moss, sand, and perlite, but no soil. This mix is also sterile as it does not contain any of the bacteria and fungi common to soil.

Topsoil – The top layer of soil, usually the first 2 to 8 inches, that contains the most organic matter and microorganisms. This is often the layer that plants concentrate their roots.

Black Earth – Also known as chernozem, black earth is a highly fertile soil that contains high percentages of humus and the ingredients found in fertilizer.

Top Dresser – A blended soil mix that is applied over the surface of turfgrass.

Soil AmendmentsThings added to the soil to alter and enhance its physical properties

 Weed Control

  • Selective – Focuses on killing specific plants.
  • Non-Selective – Kills most plants.

Dormant Spray – A spray that is applied to trees and shrubs during their dormancy period. Some are used for insect control while others may be used for disease control.

Insecticidal Soap – A soap that is sprayed on plants to control pests.

Mulch – Material placed on the ground to help retain moisture and prevent weed growth.

Aggregate – Types of stone that are used to assist with construction and landscaping.


  • Chemical – A chemical-based substance used to enhance plant growth and fertility.
  • Slow Release – Traditional fertilizer coated in a shell that degrades over time.
  • Foliar – Fertilizer applied directly to the leaves of plants.

Corn Gluten – A byproduct of corn processing that can be used as a natural method for weed control.

Organic – Free of drugs, hormones, and synthetic chemicals.

Pruning – The trimming and cutting of targeted unwanted plant matter to shape, improve health, and remove dead, diseased, or damaged sections.

Deadheading – Remove flowers from plants after they have bloomed to encourage more flowering.

Sod – A piece of soil covered in grass and held together by the matted roots of the grass.

Aeration – Puncturing the soil to allow better air and water penetration.

Thatch – A build-up of organic matter that can include dead grass, leaves, stems, and roots that collects at the base of a lawn.

Dethatching – The process of removing thatch, also known as scarification. This is performed with metal blades, tines, or prongs.

Irrigation – Applying water to land to help with crop growth.

Soaker Hose – A garden hose designed to allow water to seep into the soil slowly as opposed to running off. These are often perforated hoses.

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