Texas Tech University

Defining Plant Terms

Bouteloua gracilis

Plant Directory


  • Perennials
  • Annuals
  • Bulbs
  • Grasses
  • Natives
  • Edibles
  • Interiors


Scientific vs. Common Names

Common names have a tendency to vary from place to place; one name might refer to two completely different plants in different regions, and one flower might have wildly different names depending on who you ask. This is why it's always a good idea to pay attention to a plant's scientific name (Genus species). While they do sometimes evolve, they are largely consistent across regions, languages, and time.

Suggested Use

Some plants are well-suited and commonly used in certain contexts. The plants in this database are categorized as:

  • Container Plantings
  • Hanging Baskets
  • Beds & Borders
  • Groundcovers
  • Cutflowers
  • Bulbs
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Herbs
  • Natives
  • Specimen (interior)
  • Floor Plant (interior)
  • Pot Plant (interior)
  • Permanent Color (interior)
  • Rotational Color (interior)


Plant Type

  • Annual
  • Perennial
  • Biennial

Plant Form

Plant form refers to the overall shape or behavior of a plant. Here, we've characterized plants as:

  • Upright
  • Curved
  • Rounded
  • Spreading
  • Cascading

Height & Spread

The measurements of a plant refer to its expected size at maturity. Not leaving enough space for plants to grow can result in over-crowding, so leave a bit of breathing room if the expected height and spread (width) call for it.

Foliage Texture

Based on the size and character of plants' foliage, they have been sorted into fine, medium, and coarse.



The USDA zone of a plant is one method of determining if it will do well in the climate conditions of a certain location. Zones are established "based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones", and can be seen on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map. The majority of the Texas Panhandle is located in USDA Zone 7.

Sun Requirement

Many plants perform best in particular lighting conditions. The defined categories for exterior plantings are:

  • full shade - 0-2 hours per day
  • partial shade - 2-4 hours per day
  • light shade - 4-6 hours per day
  • full sun - 6+ hours per day

The sunlight categories for interior plantings are:

  • low exposure - no direct sunlight necessary
  • medium exposure - a mix of direct and reflected sunlight
  • high exposure - direct sunlight preferred

Water Requirement

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High


  • Well-drained
  • Moist
  • High/low pH
  • High organic matter
  • High nitrogen
  • Adaptable

Heat Tolerance

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High