Funny Garden Gnome Reading Book in Grass
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If you're new to gardening, how things are stated in garden guides or on plant labels can leave you wondering. But even for those of us that have been around awhile, it can be interesting.

Humorous Side of Garden Jargon

You hear a lot of various terms when it comes gardening. Some of these are fairly obvious, like "may require support," meaning it's a vining type plant that needs something to grow along or a plant that needs staking to keep it from toppling over. You may be familiar with things like "sun lover," "drought tolerant" or "deer resistant."

But sometimes gardening terminology can be confusing if not downright humorous. For example, maybe you've come across a label that mentions something like "water sparingly" or "thinly sow." Well could you be any more vague? How much water exactly, and does thinly mean depth or spacing? Perhaps you've seen a plant labeled with "prone to bolting" or another described as having "alternate leaves."

Just what do these mean? Is the bolting plant gonna run away? Is the alternate-leafed plant going to grow something other than actual leaves?

As confusing as it can be, the humorous side of garden jargon can at least be a welcoming escape from all the day-to-day stress we experience. Here are 10 of my personal favorites:

A favorite of birds - In other words, look out! Yes, birds obviously enjoy this plant, but do you? They will delight in the plant's fruit/berries so much, for example, that they'll eat and eat and leave the subsequent droppings all over the landscape, where more of these "favorite of birds" will sprout.

Vigorous or carefree growth - Here's another one to beware of. From the plant's perspective it means, I grow so well that I may likely take over your entire garden. I've had many of these "vigorous" growers, so I speak from experience. Lesson learned.

Blind plant - Perhaps you've heard mentioned that a plant is blind. What do you envision? Sorry, but the plant doesn't actually have eyes, except potatoes (sorry, "eye" couldn't resist) and cannot see. Technically, they're all blind if you think of it that way. If you see garden related terms like this, it simply means the plant isn't blooming when it should be, usually because of poor growing conditions.

Requires period of rest - Unlike me after a day of weeding, planting, or pruning, this means the plant needs to go into dormancy. Most plants require this anyway and do it naturally (when they "sleep" through winter), like flower bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees. Some plants, especially when grown indoors, may need some coaxing to achieve this.

Self-cleaning - No, this does not mean the plant will groom itself! Instead, it's referring to the flowers. Rather than having to remove spent blooms yourself by deadheading, plants that self-clean drop the old blooms on their own.

Plant heaving - This doesn't mean a plant is sick or nauseous. It has to do with the freezing and thawing of the soil, which can result in "heaving" the plant from ground.

Volunteer - Wouldn't it be nice if this meant help in the garden? But, alas, it does not. As far as gardening terminology goes, a volunteer plant is one that comes up, often unexpectedly, on its own"¦ sometimes with the help of birds or from tossing out veggies, the seeds of which germinate and grow right there. These are normally some of my best looking plants. Lol

Enjoys wet feet - Plants don't have feet so they won't be dipping their toes in the pool and won't "bolt" from your garden. What they do have are roots and this is what's meant by "feet." In this case, it refers to plants that prefer moisture. If you live in a desert-like environment, this may not be for you unless you're willing to provide the extra maintenance in keeping the soil well watered, another confusing garden related term.

Plant sucker - While this could easily refer to someone like me that's a sucker for all things plant related, suckers are actually odd growths found around the base of a tree, especially one that's been grafted. These are normally undesirable and should be removed. Suckers can also refer to shoots on tomato plants.

Plant sport - This is not an athletic event, though with gardening it can sometimes feel like it. A sport in the garden is a very different growth habit or mutation on a plant, such as a pink bloom with a single white petal. These are some of my favorite garden discoveries.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.