10+ Houseplant Identification: Tips to ID your Mystery Houseplant


Updated: 16 Jun, 2023

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Are you curious about the beautiful house plants adorning your living space? Do you ever come across an unfamiliar plant and wonder what it is? Thanks to modern technology, you can now easily identify house plants with just a few taps on your smartphone. Plant identification apps have become incredibly popular tools for plant enthusiasts, gardeners, and even casual plant lovers.

These apps utilize advanced image recognition technology and extensive plant databases to provide accurate identification results. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, having one of these apps on your phone can be a game-changer. Let’s explore some of the best apps available for identifying house plants.

One notable app is PlantSnap, which stands out for its user-friendly interface and accurate identification capabilities. With PlantSnap, all you need to do is take a picture of the plant, and the app will analyze it to identify the species. It also offers detailed information about each plant, including care instructions, so you can ensure your plants thrive.

Another popular choice is PictureThis, which boasts a vast plant database and a seamless identification process. By uploading a photo, PictureThis will match it with the correct plant species and provide you with extensive information about its characteristics and care requirements.

Planta is an app that goes beyond identification. It offers a comprehensive plant care experience, providing not only identification features but also reminders for watering, fertilizing, and general plant care tips.

For those interested in identifying trees specifically, Leafsnap is an excellent app. By focusing on the unique features of tree leaves, Leafsnap assists in identifying tree species accurately. It contains a large database of tree images and uses visual recognition technology to deliver precise results.

If you prefer a community-based approach, iNaturalist allows you to upload plant photos and seek identification help from a community of experts and fellow plant enthusiasts. This app covers various organisms, including plants, and provides a platform for sharing observations and contributing to scientific research.

Why is Houseplant identification so important?

Identifying the plants in your houseplant collection serves both curiosity and practical purposes. While satisfying your curiosity about the plants you own, plant identification is also crucial for functional reasons. Some houseplants, like sago palms and peace lilies, can be highly toxic to cats and dogs, making it essential to identify them to ensure the safety of your beloved pets. By identifying your plants, you can prevent any accidents or mishaps that may arise from their presence in areas accessible to your family pets.

Furthermore, different plants have distinct care requirements. Understanding and recognizing the specific species can help you cater to their needs more effectively. Factors such as lighting conditions, watering schedules, and fertilizing frequency vary from plant to plant. Therefore, identifying your houseplants allows you to tailor their care regimen accurately, ensuring optimal growth and health.

In summary, beyond satisfying your curiosity, identifying the plants in your collection holds practical importance. It aids in safeguarding your pets by identifying any potentially harmful species and enables you to provide appropriate care by recognizing the specific requirements of each plant. Embracing plant identification enhances both the aesthetic appeal and the overall well-being of your houseplant collection.

Ways to ID your mystery houseplant

While seeking assistance from a nursery or garden center employee is a viable option for plant identification, there is a unique thrill in undertaking the detective work yourself. Discovering the identity of your own plant can be a rewarding and educational experience. To assist you in this pursuit, we have compiled a list of our favorite resources for plant identification and provided guidance on how to utilize them effectively.

One of the most reliable resources is the vast array of plant identification apps available for smartphones. These apps utilize advanced image recognition technology to analyze photos of plants and provide accurate identification results. PlantSnap, PictureThis, and Planta are highly recommended apps in this regard, offering extensive plant databases and user-friendly interfaces.

If you prefer a more traditional approach, botanical field guides and plant identification books are excellent resources. These guides often feature detailed descriptions, illustrations, and keys to help you narrow down the possibilities and determine the exact species of your plant. Online plant identification websites, such as the USDA Plants Database and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant Finder, also offer comprehensive databases and search functions to aid in your identification efforts.

Check for a plant label

A properly crafted plant label provides valuable information about your plant, including its common name, scientific name, and care instructions. It is advisable to thoroughly inspect your plant for an existing label, especially if it has dense foliage that may obscure small labels. In case your plant lacks a label or has an insufficient one that merely identifies it as a generic term like “Tropical Houseplant” or “Foliage Plant” without specifying the actual plant name, you may need to engage in some investigative work.

To begin your quest for plant identification, there are several avenues you can explore. First, observe the plant’s characteristics such as its leaf shape, size, and color, as well as any distinctive features like flowers or fruits. Take note of these details as they can help narrow down the possibilities.

Utilizing Google image searches can be surprisingly effective for plant identification. To employ this method, simply enter as many relevant descriptive words about your plant as possible into the search bar and compare your plant to the results that appear in the image search.

When describing your plant, there are common categories to focus on:

  1. Leaf descriptors: Consider the shape, size, color, variegation patterns, and thickness of the leaves. Use keywords such as “heart-shaped leaves,” “serrated leaves,” or “oblong leaves” to refine your search.

  2. Flower descriptors: Pay attention to the bloom color, number of petals, scent, shape, and size. Keywords like “star-shaped flowers” or “tubular flowers” can be helpful in finding accurate results.

  3. Size of the plant: Determine whether it is large, moderate, or compact in size.

  4. Growth habit: Identify whether it is trailing, vining, or bushy.

  5. Type of plant: Classify it as a cactus, succulent, foliage plant, or flowering plant.

If your plant bears resemblance to a known plant, you can use that as a starting point. Conduct searches like “vining plant that resembles pothos” or “plants similar to monstera” to find comparable results and make comparisons. Including the keyword “houseplant” in your search can help exclude outdoor plants, making your task easier.

Remember to compare the images and information you find during your search to ensure accuracy. While Google image searches can be helpful, it’s always a good idea to cross-reference your findings with multiple sources or seek expert advice to confirm the plant’s identification.

In situations where you don’t have a camera available or the plant identification tool yields unclear results, you can turn to internet search engines to identify your plant. Pay attention to the unique characteristics of your plant and incorporate those terms into your search query. Here are some descriptive terms to consider:

  1. Leaf characteristics:
  • Leaf color, shape, texture, and size.
  • Terms like simple, lobed, or compound leaves.
  • References to specific leaf shapes such as heart-shaped, star-shaped, or oblong leaves.
  • Indications of broad leaves, large leaves, tiny leaves, etc.
  • Noteworthy leaf textures like smooth and glossy or fuzzy leaves.
  • Descriptions of leaf colors such as purple, variegated, striped, spotted, or red-edged leaves.
  1. Flower details:
  • Shapes of flowers like globe-shaped, cross-shaped, star-shaped, or tubular.
  • Flower colors, including bi-colored blooms.
  • Fragrance notes such as honey-scented or fruit-scented.
  • Bloom-time, indicating if it blooms in spring, summer, or fall.
  • Size and number of blooms, as some plants produce a single bloom while others have multiple blossoms.
  1. Growth habit:
  • Indication of trailing, upright, tall, vining, or low and mounded growth habits.
  1. Plant variety:
  • Terms like succulent, cacti, tropical plant, herb, etc.

When conducting your search, try incorporating as many of these descriptive words as possible to enhance your search results. Comparing your plant to ones you can already identify using terms like “daisy-like flower that smells like jasmine” or “plants similar to pothos with black leaves” can also be helpful. Additionally, include the term “houseplant” in your search query to exclude outdoor and wild-growing plants from the results.

It’s worth noting that many plants within a single family share similar characteristics. If you can successfully identify one plant and notice similarities with your mystery houseplant, it may indicate that they belong to the same family. For example, if you can recognize common aloe (Aloe vera) and your mystery plant has similar fleshy leaves with tiny spikes, there’s a possibility that you have some variety of aloe. Searching for “different aloe varieties” and comparing their differences can help narrow down the exact variety.

While internet search engines aren’t foolproof for plant identification, by using search keywords effectively and carefully comparing photos, you can typically identify your plant with a little effort. If you encounter difficulties, try different search engines or explore dedicated houseplant websites such as Just Houseplants to gain further insights about your mystery plant.

Check plant websites

Online websites provide valuable assistance in identifying houseplants. These platforms typically offer extensive indexes of common houseplants, complete with accompanying photos to aid in identification. Moreover, these websites often provide essential information, including care instructions, for the identified plant.

Some websites go a step further by allowing users to upload photos of their plants. Using image recognition technology, these websites instantly provide results from their plant databases that bear a resemblance to the uploaded photo. Although the accuracy may vary, these tools are often reliable and present multiple plant options for comparison. Notable examples include the plant identification tool on Just Houseplants and platforms like Pl@ntNet.

The search results on these websites often include the scientific name of the identified plant, which enables you to easily find specific care instructions online for your particular species.

To enhance the accuracy of your identification results, it is advisable to take a clear photo of your plant in good lighting. Pay attention to capturing unique features of the plant, such as leaf shape or growth habit. Whether you photograph the entire plant or focus on a single leaf, both types of images can be equally useful in generating accurate identification results.

Using Our Houseplant Identification Tool

To begin, you can take photos of your plant directly with your smartphone or computer or upload photos you’ve already taken into the identification tool. Try taking photos of any distinguishing characteristics of your plant, such as leaf color and shape, growth habit and flower size and coloration. While our search tool has an accuracy of over 90%, to improve your search results, try uploading multiple photos of your houseplant from different angles. And, of course, aim for quality photos that are not blurry or overly pixelated for better results. After uploading your photos, click “Submit,” and let our tool do the rest.

In a few seconds, our tool will identify your plant and provide you with some important information about it. Your search results will include the estimated accuracy of your search result (clearer photos produce more accurate results), as well as the common name and scientific name of the plant, photos for comparison and a bit of information about your plant species, such as country of origin, growth habit and species variation.

While our identification tool is very accurate, for added certainty in your identification, try double checking your search results with an internet search for the scientific name of the plant you identified. Comparing your plant to the search image results should give you that extra boost of confidence in your plant identification. Search results will also provide you with the specific care requirements and toxicity information for your particular plant species to help you ensure you’re meeting the care needs of your mystery houseplant.

Upload a photo to a plant ID app

If you own a smartphone, there are several valuable plant identification apps available for on-the-go use. These apps can be installed on your device and enable you to identify plants conveniently. Among the most popular apps as of 2022 are PlantNet, iNaturalist, and PlantSnap.

Similar to plant identification websites, it’s important to approach the results obtained from these apps with caution and verify them using additional sources, such as Google Images, to ensure accurate identification. Nonetheless, these apps are generally helpful and offer a high level of accuracy. They can be especially handy when you’re plant shopping and come across an unfamiliar plant, as you can quickly research its care instructions before making a purchase.

As with using plant identification websites, it’s crucial to take clear, well-lit photos of the plants you want to identify. Ensure that you capture any distinctive features of the plant in the photo, as these details can greatly assist in the identification process.

Frequently Asked Question

How can I identify my houseplant without a label?

Look for distinguishing features like leaf shape, color, and texture, as well as flower characteristics and growth habit. Take photos and use identification resources such as plant identification apps, websites, or online forums.

What are some useful characteristics to note when identifying a houseplant?

Pay attention to leaf shape, size, color, variegation, and texture. Also, observe flower color, shape, and scent, as well as overall plant size and growth habit.

Can I use an internet search engine for plant identification?

Yes, using search engines can be helpful. Include specific keywords related to leaf and flower characteristics, growth habit, and plant type to refine your search results.

Are there dedicated websites for houseplant identification?

Yes, there are several websites with extensive plant databases and identification tools. Websites like PlantNet, iNaturalist, and Just Houseplants offer resources to identify your mystery houseplant.

How accurate are plant identification apps?

Plant identification apps have varying degrees of accuracy. While they can provide a good starting point, it’s advisable to cross-reference their results with other sources, such as expert opinions or additional online resources.

Can I seek help from online communities for houseplant identification?

Absolutely! Engaging with online forums, social media groups, or plant identification communities can be valuable. Upload clear photos and provide relevant details for others to assist in identifying your houseplant.

What should I do if I’m unsure about the accuracy of the identification?

If you have doubts about the identification, perform additional research. Cross-check the plant’s characteristics with reputable sources and compare them to multiple images to gain more confidence in your findings.

How can I find care instructions for my identified houseplant?

Once you have successfully identified your houseplant, search for its scientific name online. This will lead you to specific care instructions, including light requirements, watering needs, temperature preferences, and any potential toxicity concerns.

Conclusion

Identifying your mystery houseplant can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor. Whether you rely on physical characteristics, online resources, plant identification apps, or a combination of methods, there are numerous ways to uncover the identity of your plant. Remember to observe and document key features such as leaf shape, color, and texture, as well as flower characteristics and growth habits. Utilizing descriptive terms and conducting thorough searches using various platforms can significantly increase your chances of successful identification.

While no method is foolproof, the resources available today, including websites, apps, and search engines, offer valuable tools to aid in your quest. Take advantage of the advancements in technology, such as plant identification apps and online databases, which provide access to vast collections of plant information and visual references.

Keep in mind that plant identification may require some patience, as it can involve trial and error, especially when dealing with similar-looking species or variations within a plant family. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from experts, such as nursery employees or online plant communities, who can offer guidance and share their knowledge.


Mary Lloyster

Mary Lloyster

Mary, the ultimate oracle of indoor gardening! With years of experience and a flourishing indoor expo, Mary has become our go-to expert for all things related to house plants and indoor gardening. Despite her background in Political Science, Mary has discovered a delightful way to blend her full-time job with a touch of relaxation through indoor gardening. Now, she eagerly shares her wisdom and experiences with our readers on a daily basis. If you have any inquiries about house plants, indoor gardening techniques, or caring tips, don't hesitate to leave a comment for Mary in the designated section below!

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