Our ‘A’ to ‘Z’ of Gardening Terms

Terms that begin with “S”

sandThe coarsest type of soil particle (0.05 to 2.0 mm in diameter).
sanitationThe process of removing sources of plant pathogens from a growing area, for example, by cleaning up plant debris and sterilizing tools and growing media.
saprophyteAn organism that obtains food from dead organic matter.
sapwoodThe outer, light-colored, water conducting region of secondary xylem.
scab(1) A crust-like disease lesion. (2) A specific disease that causes scab lesions.
scaffoldThe principal branches of a tree or shrub arising from the trunk or another main branch to for the plant’s framework.
scaffold branchSee scaffold (above).
scale(1) A modified leaf that protects a bud. (2) A type of insect pest.
scarificationNicking, sanding, or otherwise compromising the hard outer coating of a seed to increase its water intake and thus promote germination. Sometimes incorrectly called scarfing.
scionA cutting or bud that is grafted to the stock of another plant.
secondary growthThe growth resulting from the activities of lateral meristems (vascular and cork cambium).
secondary nutrientA nutrient needed by plants in a moderate amount: calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. See macronutrient, primary nutrient.
secondary phloemFood-conducting tissue formed by the vascular cambium.
secondary xylemWater-conducting tissue formed by the vascular cambium.
seedA reproductive structure formed from the maturation of an ovule and containing an embryo and stored food.
seed coatA hard outer covering that protects a seed from disease and insects. Also prevents water from entering the seed and initiating germination before the proper time.
seed leafSee cotyledon.
seedlingA young plant, shortly after germination.
selective pesticideA pesticide that kills or controls only certain kinds of plants or animals. For example, 2,4-D kills broadleaf lawn weeds but leaves grass largely unharmed.
self-fruitfulA plant that bears fruit through self-pollination.
self-pollinationThe transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of the same flower.
self-unfruitfulA plant that requires another variety for pollination. See pollinizer.
senescense(1) The aging process. (2) A descriptive term for a plant that is in the process of going dormant for the season, although technically only the parts that are dying (the leaves) are becoming senescent.
sepalAn appendage at a flower’s base, typically green or greenish and more or less leafy in appearance. Collectively, the calyx.
separationThe process of removing new bulbs or corms from their parent for the purpose of propagation.
sessileStalkless and attached directly at the base, as in sessile leaves.
shade-tolerantHaving the ability to live in low light conditions.
shearTo cut back a plant (as opposed to selective pruning or deadheading). Often used to regenerate plants with many small stems, where deadheading would be too time-consuming.
shootOne season’s branch growth. The bud scale scars (ring of small ridges) on a branch mark the start of a season’s growth.
short-day plantA plant requiring more than twelve hours of continuous darkness to stimulate a change in growth, e.g., a shift from the vegetative to reproductive phase. See long-day plant, day-neutral plant.
shoulder ringOne of the ridges around the base of a branch where it attaches to a trunk or to another branch, See collar.
shrubA woody plant that grows to a height of three to twelve feet. May have one or several stems with foliage extending nearly to the ground.
side-dressTo apply fertilizer to the soil around a growing plant.
sieve plateThe perforated end-wall of a sieve tube member.
sieve tubeA food conducting cell.
signDirect evidence of a damaging factor (for example, a pest or pathogen itself, secretions, insect webbing, or chemical residue).
signal wordAn indication of toxicity on pesticide labels. Pesticides labeled “Caution” are the least toxic, those labeled “Warning” are more toxic, and those labeled “Danger” or “Danger – Poison” are the most toxic.
siltA type of soil particle that is intermediate in size between sand and clay (0.002 to 0.05 mm in diameter).
simple fruitA fruit formed from a single ovary.
simple leafA leaf in which the blade is not divided into smaller units (leaflets).
simple metamorphosisA type of insect development in which the insect passes through the stages of egg, nymph, and adult. The nymph usually resembles the adult. See complete metamorphosis.
slow-release fertilizerA fertilizer material that must be converted into a plant-available form by soil micro-organisms.
soft pinchTo remove only the succulent tip of a shoot, usually with the fingertips.
soilA natural, biologically active mixture of weathered rock fragments and organic material at the earth’s surface.
soil salinityA measure of the total soluble salts in a soil.
soil solutionThe solution of water and dissolved minerals found in soil pores.
soil structureThe arrangement of aggregates (peds) in a soil.
soil textureHow coarse or fine a soil is. Texture is determined by the proportions of sand, silt, and clay in the soil.
soilless mixA sterile potting medium consisting of ingredients such as sphagnum peat moss and vermiculite.
soluble saltsA mineral residue often remaining in soil from irrigation water, fertilizer, compost, or manure applications.
sonic repellerA sonic wave emitting unit said to disrupt the activities of small mammals. Not proven to be effective.
sorusAn area of spore production on the underside of a fern leaf.
spandixA spike of flowers enclosed in a spathe.
spatheA large bract enclosing a spandix.
speciesThe basic unit of plant or animal classification. Plants within a individual species have several characteristics in common. Most importantly, they can cross with one another, but normally not with members of other species. Classification of species is quite fluid, with periodic revision by botanists.
specific epithetThe second word in a binomial (scientific) name, following the genus name. For example, in the binomial name Thuja plicata (The tree commonly known as Western Redcedar), “Thuga” is the genus name and “plicata” is the specific epithet.
spermA male sex cell.
spikeAn inflorescence in which the flowers are attached to the main stem without stalks.
spineA modified leaf part that is hard and pointed.
spore(1) The reproductive body of a fungus or other lower plant, containing one or more cells. (2) A bacterial cell modified to survive in an adverse environment.
sportSee mutation.
spot treatmentTo apply a pesticide to a small section or area of a crop.
spurCommonly seen on fruit trees, spurs are a short, compact twig with little or no internodal development on which flowers and fruit are borne.
stamenThe male, pollen-producing part of a flower consisting of the anther and its supporting filament.
standardA plant pruned so that it consists of a single bare, vertical stem, atop which a shaped mass of foliage, usually globular, is maintained.
starchThe principal food-storage substance (a carbohydrate) of higher plants.
stemThe leaf and flower bearing part of a plant.
stem cuttingA section of a stem prepared for vegetative propagation.
stem tuberAn enlarged tip of a rhizome containing stored food.
sterile(1) Material that is free of disease organisms (pathogens), as in potting medium. (2) A plant that is unable to produce viable seeds.
stigmaThe part of a female sex organ that receives pollen. Supported by the style, through which it is connected to the ovary. Often sticky when receptive.
stinging hairA multicellular hair containing an irritating fluid.
stipulesA pair of appendages found on many leaves where the petiole meets the stem.
stockSee rootstock.
stolonA horizontal stem running along, but above, the soil surface and producing roots and leaves where its nodes contact the soil. Strawberries are an example of a plant that produces stolons. Also called a runner.
stomaTiny openings in a leaf’s epidermis that allow water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide to pass in and out of a plant. (pl. stomata)
stomatesSee stoma (above).
stone cellA hard, thick-walled plant cell.
stone fruitA fleshy fruit, such as peach, plum, or cherry, usually having a single hard stone that encloses a seed. Also called a drupe.
strainA variation within a cultivar or variety.
stratificationThe exposure of seeds to moisture or low temperature to overcome dormancy.
styleThe part of a plant’s female sex organ that supports the stigma and connects it to the ovary.
styletA nematode’s lance-like or needle-like mouthpart used to puncture and feed from plant cells.
suberinA fatty plant substance present in the walls of cork cells.
subspeciesA major division of a species, more general in classification than a cultivar or variety.
successionThe progression of a plant community to a stable mixture of plants.
succession plantingThe practice of planting new crops in areas vacated by harvested crops.
suckerA shoot or stem that originates underground from a plant’s roots or trunk, or from a rootstock below the graft union. See reversion growth.
summer oilA light refined horticultural oil used during the growing season to control insect pests and diseases.
sunscaldWinter or summer injury to the trunk of a woody plant caused by hot sun and fluctuating temperatures. Typically, sunscalded bark splits and separates from the trunk.
surfactantSee additive.
sustainable gardeningGardening practices that allow plants to thrive with minimal inputs of labor, water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
symbioticMutually beneficial.
symptomA change in plant growth or appearance in response to living or nonliving damaging factors.
systemic pesticideA pesticide that moves throughout a target organism’s system to cause death.