Help:How to edit a plant article

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The vast majority of the articles on are plant articles, since the free plant encyclopedia we are building is one of the main goals of this site, and there are tens of thousands of plants out there. Our focus of course is to cover all of the garden plants in the world, with instructions on how to grow them. This article will go into great detail about how to edit each article, and what the goal is of a plant article.


User accounts

Before following the editing instructions below, you must have a user account. Accounts are completely free, but you must now request one by email. Just send a note to raffi@ followed by the name of this website ( and include the username you'd like to request. Sorry for the extra step, but it helps to maintain a high quality of information as well as eliminate spam. Anyone can get an account if they are willing to follow the Help:Editing guidelines!

How to edit

First, you can visit Help:Editing to see how much of the formatting on the pages is accomplished. Basically, you click on the "edit" tab at the top of the page and just start typing away. It's pretty basic. The help page though will give you a little detail on bold, italics, links, etc. The rest of this page will explain a lot of additional tips on what to include in terms of content, how to include it, and what a good article will ideally be.

Basic structure of a plant article

Each plant article should have a plant information box at the top. Directly below that comes a description of the plant, followed by subsections about cultivation, propagation, pests and diseases, varieties of the plant, a photo gallery, references and external links. Remember that throughout the text, the main goal is to have a focused article on growing a plant, in language that can be pretty easily understood.

Plant box

The plant box gives you the basic facts about a plant at your fingertips. When you click on the edit tab to edit an article, sometimes the edit page will show up with a form at the top of the page, followed by the text of the article. That form is where you can add all the plantbox information. It has drop down boxes, checkboxes and blanks where you just fill in all the information. The form was added as a feature in August 2010, so some of the older articles do not utilize it, and either have no plantbox at all, or an older style of text based plantbox. If you want to add the plantbox to any article, just click on "Add a plant" on the left side navigation menu on any page of this site, even if the plant has already been added. Put the name in the blank, and click "add or edit", and the form will show up on the top of the edit page. You can gather all the info you can from the old text which appears below, and add it to the form above. You can then remove the old text-based plantbox, or leave that for someone else to remove.

It is fine to leave anything blank on the form, if you either don't know it or it is not relevant.

You will find the following fields on the plant form:

  • Taxonomy - This is the latin name of the plant. Most often you'll know the Genus and Species. Unless it is a subspecies or cultivar, those are left blank. If you want to find the family name, you can often find it on or wikispecies. The "Taxo author" is the person who gave the plant that name. If you know it, the preferred style is to use the accepted abbreviation for the authors name.
  • Common name(s) - just as it says, this is a blank space where you can insert the common names of a plant. You will notice a space called "Reference" to the right. This is where you can write the name of the source you got the common name from whenever possible.
  • Growth habit - is it a tree, bamboo, bulb, etc? Chose the right one from the list if you know it.
  • Size - fill in the maximum height and width, as well as what units you are using from the drop down box. If you have a minimum height and/or width, you can fill those in, too.
  • Origin - As abbreviated as possible. The article text can go into a little more detail, but this is a simple fyi, not meant to go into great detail.
  • Poisonous - If you know of a part of the plant that is poisonous, by all means list it!
  • Lifespan - perennial, annual or biennial?
  • Exposure - sun, part-sun or shade? part-shade is the same as part-sun, and if it does well indoors, you can mark it as a houseplant under Features.
  • Water - wet, moist, moderate, dry. Most instructions on plants will give you these descriptions for watering, but some use different terminology and need to be adjusted. Some plants need less water during winter or a dormant period, and there is a check box for that as well.
  • Features - most are self-explanatory, but some are not quite.
    • Flowers - only check off flowers if the plant is in part grown for its flowers. If they are hard to see or not ornamental, then do not check it off.
    • Fruit - only check off fruit if the plant is grown for it's edible fruit.
    • Edible - only check off edible if the plant is actually eaten by people - this does not just mean it is not poisonous to eat.
  • Flower season - only fill this in if the plant is grown at least in part for its flowers.
  • Flower features - again, only fill this in if the plant is grown at least in part for its flowers.
  • Minimum temp - this is the lowest temperature a plant can survive before it normally would die.
  • USDA zones - usually you'll at least know the lowest zone a plant will grow in, oftentimes you'll know the top as well. Some sources have subcategories with a and b. A zone 4a is the same as zone 4, but a zone 4b should be entered as 4.5.
  • Sunset zones - please use the National Garden Book for these, or at least mention that you are using just the Western or other edition in the reference section!
  • Infobox needs help? - this checkbox will display a message on the page if it is checked off, asking visitors to add information. If a few of the fields are already full, you can uncheck this.
  • Image - just put the name of the file under filename, and if it has a vertical orientation, change the display size to 180. The image caption is what you want people to read about the picture when their mouse hovers over it.

Many of the fields have a space for a reference at the end. You can simply write in the name of the source(s) here. eg. "Wikipedia" or "Sunset National Garden Book". You can have more than one, separated by commas.

Plant description

This is where you describe the plant in general. What it looks like, the type of leaves, where it's from, how big it gets, why people grow it, etc. The goal is to have a useful description for gardeners, so keep non-gardening information to a bare minimum. It might be good to know that a plant comes from China, or even from coastal China, but to know what villages, what it is called by the locals, etc is too much information and distracts from the goal of imparting valuable gardening information.

It can also be a problem if the description is too technical. If things get too technical, they again make the article less useful for the average gardener. There is room for a technical description in an information box after the regular gardeners description. It is called a botanical description and when you put it in the special formatting explained here, it will be in a box that people can open when they visit the plant article. To add a botanical description, or move text into one, you have to have the following code after the regular plant description:


When you do that, it will show up on the page as you can see below

Remember, Wikipedia is a great place to copy/paste a plant description from, and it is perfectly okay in terms of licensing. However, if part of the description is very academic, it belongs in the botanic description box. If it is not really related to describing the plant or growing it (for example details on the use or history of the plant) then it does not belong on


This section should have the information on how to grow the plant. Where it likes to grow, what type of soil it likes, pruning details, more details on watering, fertilizing, etc. Anything that is useful to know when growing it.


How does this plant multiply? List all the ways you know of, including seed, cuttings, layering, grafting, etc. If you have information on how the seeds should be planted (distance, moisture, temperature, presoaking or not, on site or not, etc), or special directions on cuttings or grafting, definitely include it. If not, just saying it grows from seed or grafting for example, with those words linked to the articles is explanation enough.

Pests and Diseases

What pests or diseases (if any) is the plant most prone to? If there are remedies that are specific to this plant, then list them here as well. If they just need regular treatment for these problems, like aphids for example, a link to that article should explain how to treat them. No need to duplicate that information on every plant article. If the plant does not have a predisposition for any problems, you can state as much.


This section is named Varieties by default, however depending on what type of plant article it is, the name may be better off being changed. For example, if it is an article for a genus, calling it "Species" might be more precise. Or, if it is for a species, then you might want to name this section Cultivars or even Subspecies. There are some plant articles which may not need this section at all, and it can be removed. If a species has no cultivars or subspecies, it may not need this section. If the article is for a cultivar or subspecies, it might likewise not need this section. This is a good time to remind you that this is a wiki, and any change you make can easily be undone or changed again. In other words, don't stress about these decisions! If you take it out and it's needed later, it can be added, and if you leave it when it's not necessary, someone else can take it out.


Oftentimes when people look up a plant, they want to know most of all what it looks like, so the gallery is very important. To add photos to the gallery, the photos need to already be uploaded, or you can use photos from certain other sources. For more information on where you can get free photos, see Help:Photo sources. Once they're on the site, you can add them to the articles within the text, or in the photo gallery. It's nice for the photo gallery to have various views of the plant, including what it looks like at different stages, or maybe in different seasons, in bloom, in fruit, the bark, the leaves, etc.


This section is for references that were used to get information for the article. It is very important to use references whenever possible, because it gives the information a great deal more credibility. If you want to add a reference footnote somewhere in the text of the article, you add a <ref> tag right where you want it to go, type the name of the reference, or paste the URL if it's online, and then put a </ref> at the end of it. That's all. When you save the article a linked superscript number will show up right where you inserted it, and your footnote will appear at the bottom of the text. You can also just list a reference you used in multiple places under the reference section manually, by adding an asterisk followed by the name of the reference or link. Including the references inline is always the optimal solution. If you used creative commons text or other text with permission in the article, this is also where you would give the proper attribution and credit for that.

External links

This site gives the gardening aspect of the plant. Each article should by default have a link to Wikipedia here as well, which will give readers easy access to further non-gardening information about the plant. In general there is not often a good reason to include additional links, unless there is a great source of gardening information on a plant that expands upon the article.


There are many great plant encyclopedias out there with ideal information for this site. The text must be reworded if it is copyright, but other than that the information in it is perfect for use here. They usually have all kinds of information on the cultivation and propagation, among other things. There is also the Sunset National Garden Book I use for the Sunset Zones, many plants are missing this information that gardeners often prefer to the USDA zones. There are other garden books, including information on gardening techniques such as pruning, composting, worm farming, etc which can be used as sources. You can use any material you like without restriction from sites with a Creative Commons license such as, just make sure there is a link back to the page you got the information from. If you can get permission from other sites to use their copyright materials, that's also ideal. Photographs of many plants can be found on - but you should do an advanced search for Free License Photos first, and if that doesn't come up with good stuff, look at some of the copyright stuff and ask for permission. Any photo in the Wikimedia commons can be used here, and in fact you don't even need to upload it here, just use the photo filename as you would with any other photo on this site.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Virtually the entire text of the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture has been incorporated into this site. The Cyclopedia was once the definitive guide to garden plants in the United States, and possibly the world. Much of it is now dated, but a good plant description never changes. If the text can be incorporated into the article smoothly, great. If not it can stay in a separate box dedicated to the Cyclopedia content, which can go below the plant description, or in a separate section below the photo gallery. Outdated information or information not relevant to the home gardener should be removed completely and without mercy!

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