11 Tips For Correctly Identifying Houseplants

by | Jan 20, 2021 | How To, Tips

To the untrained eye, identifying houseplants can be a challenge. It could be a pothos, but it also looks a lot like a philodendron. Or is that a monstera? And what exactly classifies a plant as a succulent anyway?

In this guide, we’re going to first provide some common tips for plant identification, then provide descriptions for hundreds of popular houseplants. The hope is that, when finished, you have all the information you need to identify the plants in your home.

Popular Houseplant Reviews:

Why Is It Important To Identify Your Houseplants?

Each plant has unique needs, so identifying your indoor plants helps you understand their water, light, soil, fertilizer, and potting requirements. You also should know the amount of TLC your plant requires. Is this an easy-care plant, or will this plant stop you from going on vacations?

The ultimate goal is to help your plants have a long and healthy life.

How To Identify Houseplants

Identifying a houseplant can take some detective work. You can either do it yourself or use a houseplant ID app, such as Pl@ntNet or SmartPlant. There’s quite a bit of room for error with these apps, so here’s an excellent review of leaders in the space from Harli G:

 

If you want to learn to identify houseplants on your own, start with a journal and pen so you can take notes. Begin to analyze the plant, starting with the following:

Leaf Shape

Describe the shape of the leaf. Is it oval, round, or long and skinny?  Are they angular? Are they frond-like?

Leaf Color

Describe the color (don’t just say green), and are there stripes or dots present on the leaves?

Leaf Texture

Are the leaves smooth, rough, or rubbery? 

Flowers

Are there flowers present? What color are the flowers? Does the plant bloom all year? Are the flowers small?

Plant Dimensions

Measure your plant’s height and width, as well as the length of the leaves.

Plant Roots

Some plants will have aerial roots that come up from the soil. Note if aerial roots are present.

Categorizing Your Houseplants

Once you have your data, decide which category your plant belongs to:

Cacti and Succulents

Succulents, including cacti, have some of the most unique shapes of any indoor plants. Some have bright colors and beautiful flowers, and they can vary in shape and size.

What Makes A Plant A Succulent?

Succulents are plants with fleshy and engorged leaves, which allow them to stay hydrated in dry conditions. The name “succulent” comes from the Latin word that means juice or sap, and most succulents are squishy to the touch.

Below is a table of top succulents and cacti. These common houseplants are typically easy to care for. As you try to identify your succulent, you can use the search bar to type in attributes (color, flower details, leaf shape, etc.)

Plant NamePlant ImagePurchaseOther NamesLeaf ShapeLeaf ColorDimensionsFlowersUnique CharacteristicsLight Requirements
Aloe VeraAloe Vera Two PeasSee DealsBarbados Aloe, Bitter Aloe, Medicinal AloeLance-shapedGreen with gray-white speckles24–39" tall; width can varyRare: Yellow or orange tubular flowersThe leaves are serratedFull-Sun (also grows in partial sun)
Jade PlantJade Plant Two PeasSee DealsMoey Tree, Crassula Ovata, Friendship TreeOvalJade green or yellow-green. Some varieties will also develop a red tinge along the edges.F5' tall; 2-3' wideClusters of white, star-shaped flowersThick, woody stems and glossy-green leavesFull Sun
EcheveriaEcheveria Cactus CatSee DealsThe Mexican snow ball, Mexican gem, or white Mexican roseRosette shape; pointy tip and round edgesA variety of pinks, purples, blues, and greens and can have contrasting leaf tips or be two-toned.Up to 12" tall and 12" wideTypically blooms each summer; small, bell-shaped flowers that are either orange, yellow, pink, or red.Leaves can be velvety, smooth, crinkly, or fuzzy, and are often coated in a powdery layerFull sun
Haworthia fasciataHaworthia Two PeasSee DealsZebra Plantsslender lance-shaped leaves with sharp tipsGreen with white, horizontal stripes2-8" tall normally, but some varieites can grow up to 20" tallA long green stalk with tubular pink or white flowers; blooms in summer monthsIt has a small leafy stem that is almost invisible to the naked eyeFull Sun
Snake PlantSnake Plant Faiths FloristSee DealsSansevieria, St. George's Sword; Mother-In-Law's TongueLong and lean; comes to a point at the leaf tipGreen with a yellow-white edges and black/gray horizontal stripes5"-4' tall; up to 1' wideRare: A long stalk covered in small yellowish-white flowersPartial Sun
Bunny Ear Cactusbunny ear cactus my succulent cornerSee DealsAngel's Wings, Golden Bristle Cactus, Opuntia rufidaOval or round, flattened, small pads - pads appear in pairs (like bunny ears)Pads start red and turn to a bright green with time2' feet tall; 2' wide (may grow wider outside)2" wide , off-yellow flowers bloom in summer; Globular purple fruits follow.Two pads that look like bunny ears on the base of the plantFull sun
Chin Cactuschin cactus anton mutzlSee DealsFlattened globular stemsGreen5" tall and 1.5' wideFlowers are large and range from white, light pink, red, hot pink, or coralThe stem looks somewhat like a head with a large flower bow sticking out of the side when it blooms.Full sun
African Milk TreeAfrican Milk Tree Lil Lucy's Treasure BoxSee DealsCathedral Cactus, Marble Column, Startled Bread Knife, Euphorbia trigona, High ChaparallOvalGreen or reddish-purple stems 4' tall indoors (outdoors it can grow up to 8' tall)Small, white flowers (unlikely to bloom indoors)The small leaves grow between thorns on the ridged stemsFull Sun
Christmas Cactuschristmas cactus American PlantsSee DealsSchlumbergera truncata, Thanksgiving cactus, holiday cactus, crab cactusrounded leaves with minor serrations on both sidesgreen3-4' tall; 8-12" widewhite or pink, blooming in DecemberThe Christmas cactus has a neon pink stamenbright, indirect light
Golden Barrel Cactusbarrel cactus faiths floristSee DealsEchinocactus grusonii, mother-in-law's cushionOblong shape with prickly spinesbright green with yellowish (golden) spines - woolen hairs at the top3.5' tall; 2' widelemon-yellow flowersThe barrel cactus can live over 100 yearsFull-Sun
Fairy Castle Cactusfairy tale cactus beleaf and growSee DealsAcanthocereus tetragonusfive-sided stems with wooly spinesDark-green stems4-6' tallRare: white or yellow flowersThe fairy tale cactus usually won't bloom until it's 10 years old or moreFull sun
Moon CactusMoon Cactus Lazy GardensSee DealsRuby Ball, Red Cap, Red Hibotan, Hibotan CactuGlobular mass, produces offsets that grow around the root stock base (which is actually a separate plant!)Red, Yellow, Pink, even Tye Dye!4" tall; 1-2" wideRare when growing indoors: hot pink, orange, or neon yellowThis cactus only grows when it's grafted on another cactusIndirect Sunlight

Foliage Indoor Plants

When most people think of houseplants, the “foliage plant” category comes to mind. Foliage indoor plants usually have decorative, colorful, or interesting-looking leaves. They’re cultivated for the primary purpose of being ornamental. Common foliage plants include Pothos, Ferns, ZZ Plant, Monstera, Spider Plant, and others.

The table below provides images and descriptions of common foliage plants. As you try to identify your succulent, you can use the search bar to type in attributes (color, flower details, leaf shape, etc.)

Flowering Plants

Flowering plants are distinguished by their flowers, fruits, endosperm, and seeds. There’s a lot of variety in the indoor flowering plant category, including the Peace Lily, Cyclamen, Poinsettia, Christmas Cactus, and Bird of Paradise.

In the table below, we’ve included characteristics and other details of flowering houseplants.

Orchids

Orchids are such a diverse family of flowering plants (with over 30,000 species) that we decided to put them in their own category. In all orchids, the flower’s male portion – called the stamen – is fused with the flower’s female part – called the pistil. This structure typically protrudes from the center of the flower, and it’s a distinguishing feature for most orchids.

In the table below, we’ve highlighted the characteristics of 49 of the most popular orchid plants.

Herbs

Herbs are plants that have qualities known to affect our sense of smell and taste. They’re most commonly used for garnishing foods, fragrances, or for medicinal purposes. The botanical definition requires that herbs be a small, seed-bearing plant that lacks a woody stem. Most people, however, would also include some plants outside of this definition as herbs, such as rosemary, sage, and lavender.

Here are the top herbs for growing indoors, either in dirt or hydroponically

By Patrick Chism

By Patrick Chism

Patrick likes to pretend that urban gardening is just a hobby, but he’s actually prepping for the apocalypse. He’s a practical grower, specializing in hydroponics systems and grow lights. His dream is to one day feed his family with just the food he grows in his Chicago-based condo.

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