Type of leaves flowers and roots

This section isn't a botany lesson. The reason you need to know plant parts when you're planning a garden is that it will help you choose plants with flowers and foliage that complement each other from a design perspective, and it will help you foresee challenges such as trying to plant under trees with shallow roots.


Each leaf characteristic influences the overall appearance of a plant. I won't bore you with the scores of words botanists have come up with to describe leaves, but here are a few of the most useful categories:

  • Color: Like beauty, color is in the eye of the beholder. Foliage described as black is often dark maroon, for example. (Plant breeders take license when naming new varieties, so try to find photos or live samples.) Variegated foliage has leaves with two or more colors in them.
  • Size: Look for actual measurements if leaf size is a concern.
  • Shape: Most descriptions use everyday language, but you may run across botanical terms such as ovate (egg-shaped), lanceolate (lancelike), and cordate (heart-shaped). Figure 3-1 shows some common leaf shapes.
  • Surface texture: Leaves can be shiny and smooth, hairy, fuzzy, or wrinkled.


Knowing what a plant's flowers look like can help you find the most complementary place for the plant in your garden. Some plants, like most daffodils, have single flowers, which come one to a stem. Others produce clusters of flowers in a wide array of shapes (a variety of which are shown in Figure 3-2).

Figure 3-1:

Common leaf shapes.

Figure 3-1:

Common leaf shapes.

Type Leaves


Roots don't get much attention, but the kind of roots a plant has can give you hints about its culture. Plants generally have one of two kinds of roots:

  • Fibrous roots are finely branched and grow close to the soil surface. Plants with fibrous roots are easy to transplant and divide into new plants, but are more easily damaged by drought and cold weather.
  • Taproots usually are thick and long, reaching deep into the soil. After they're established, taproots are difficult to move, but they tolerate temporary drought.

Some plants, such as clematis, have particularly shallow root systems that are easily damaged by cultivation, so use extra caution when weeding around them. Maple trees have extensive surface roots, making it a challenge to grow plants underneath them.

Figure 3-2:

Common flower shapes.

Figure 3-2:

Common flower shapes.

Extensive Shallow Root System

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Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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  • tewelde
    What are shallow rooted plants?
    8 years ago
  • Pearl
    What kind of vine has heart shaped leaves?
    7 years ago

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