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? There are so many houseplants out there – often with a variety of shapes and colors. What’s even more concerning is that I’ve seen incorrect labels at my local garden center and nursery!
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:
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Is It Important To Identify Your Houseplants?
- 2 How To Identify Houseplants
- 3 Stem Shape And Color
- 4 Categorizing Your Houseplants
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.
Once you know what the plant is, you can start considering where your plant is from. And while that might not seem incredibly important at a first glance, the origin of a plant tells you about conditions you should provide it in your home. For instance, if your plant is natively from rainforest-like Anthurium plants – it will need humid conditions in your home that you might need to supplement.
On the other hand, if your plant is native to a semi-arid environment – like South Africa – you likely need to water it less or keep it out of cold weather. Simply knowing the origin of your plant gives you a wide variety of basic care tips and helps you create the proper growing conditions.
Pot Size And Repotting
Knowing the type of plant helps you understand how to care for your plant in terms of potting. Do your houseplants prefer small pots? Or do they need larger pots to thrive? Similarly, most plants need repotting every now and again. Each plant has different repotting needs.
Pests And Diseases
While nobody wants a sickly plant, there’s a good chance one or more of your plant babies will have health issues at some point, whether that’s caused by pests or diseases. Certain plants have resistance to specific ailments, such as gray mold, sooty mold, powdery mildew, fungal spores, scale insects, fungus gnats and other common houseplant pests. Knowing what plant you have can help you troubleshoot the problems.
When it comes to plant food, different plants have different needs. A Dragon tree is going to need something different than a Coleus Wasabi. Knowing the particular plant can help you narrow down its specific needs a little bit.
How To Identify Houseplants
Identifying a houseplant can take some detective work. You can either do it yourself or use a plant care app, such as [email protected] or SmartPlant, which both do a decent job of identifying common house plants. 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. You can also use the Google Lens app, which lets you take a picture of your plant and then matches it against anything on the internet. We’ve had a great deal of luck with it. There’s only a free version, which already makes it better than most of the competitors in my book.
Begin to analyze the plant, starting with the following:
The best way To start your plant identification process is by looking at the leaf shape. Describe the shape of the leaf. Is it oval, round, or long and skinny? Are they angular? Are they frond-like?
Stem Shape And Color
While less pronounced than leaf shape, certain plant varieties have uniquely featured stems. Does your plant have green stems? Or does it have vibrantly colored stems? Are the stems smooth, or do you have woody plants that are rough to the touch? When checking this, make sure you’re focusing on new growth.
Describe the color (don’t just say green), and are there stripes or dots present on the leaves?
Are the leaves smooth, rough, or rubbery?
Are there flowers present? What color are the flowers? Does the plant bloom all year? Are the flowers small?
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.
There is a surprising amount of knowledge on Facebook if you know where to look. If you have a plant question, I recommend you check out the Epic Gardening Facebook page.
There are so many enthusiasts there, and you can get a lot of quick tips in identifying your plants.
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 Name Plant Image Purchase Other Names Leaf Shape Leaf Color Dimensions Flowers Unique Characteristics Light Requirements Aloe Vera See Deals Barbados Aloe, Bitter Aloe, Medicinal Aloe Lance-shaped Green with gray-white speckles 24–39" tall; width can vary Rare: Yellow or orange tubular flowers The leaves are serrated Full-Sun (also grows in partial sun) Jade Plant See Deals Moey Tree, Crassula Ovata, Friendship Tree Oval Jade green or yellow-green. Some varieties will also develop a red tinge along the edges.F 5' tall; 2-3' wide Clusters of white, star-shaped flowers Thick, woody stems and glossy-green leaves Full Sun Echeveria See Deals The Mexican snow ball, Mexican gem, or white Mexican rose Rosette shape; pointy tip and round edges A variety of pinks, purples, blues, and greens and can have contrasting leaf tips or be two-toned. Up to 12" tall and 12" wide Typically 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 layer Full sun Haworthia fasciata See Deals Zebra Plants slender lance-shaped leaves with sharp tips Green with white, horizontal stripes 2-8" tall normally, but some varieites can grow up to 20" tall A long green stalk with tubular pink or white flowers; blooms in summer months It has a small leafy stem that is almost invisible to the naked eye Full Sun Snake Plant See Deals Sansevieria, St. George's Sword; Mother-In-Law's Tongue Long and lean; comes to a point at the leaf tip Green with a yellow-white edges and black/gray horizontal stripes 5"-4' tall; up to 1' wide Rare: A long stalk covered in small yellowish-white flowers Partial Sun Bunny Ear Cactus See Deals Angel's Wings, Golden Bristle Cactus, Opuntia rufida Oval or round, flattened, small pads - pads appear in pairs (like bunny ears) Pads start red and turn to a bright green with time 2' 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 plant Full sun Chin Cactus See Deals Flattened globular stems Green 5" tall and 1.5' wide Flowers are large and range from white, light pink, red, hot pink, or coral The stem looks somewhat like a head with a large flower bow sticking out of the side when it blooms. Full sun African Milk Tree See Deals Cathedral Cactus, Marble Column, Startled Bread Knife, Euphorbia trigona, High Chaparall Oval Green 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 stems Full Sun Christmas Cactus See Deals Schlumbergera truncata, Thanksgiving cactus, holiday cactus, crab cactus rounded leaves with minor serrations on both sides green 3-4' tall; 8-12" wide white or pink, blooming in December The Christmas cactus has a neon pink stamen bright, indirect light Golden Barrel Cactus See Deals Echinocactus grusonii, mother-in-law's cushion Oblong shape with prickly spines bright green with yellowish (golden) spines - woolen hairs at the top 3.5' tall; 2' wide lemon-yellow flowers The barrel cactus can live over 100 years Full-Sun Fairy Castle Cactus See Deals Acanthocereus tetragonus five-sided stems with wooly spines Dark-green stems 4-6' tall Rare: white or yellow flowers The fairy tale cactus usually won't bloom until it's 10 years old or more Full sun Moon Cactus See Deals Ruby Ball, Red Cap, Red Hibotan, Hibotan Cactu Globular 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" wide Rare when growing indoors: hot pink, orange, or neon yellow This cactus only grows when it's grafted on another cactus Indirect 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.)
Some of our favorite indoor plants are the fiddle leaf fig, English ivy, different varieties of Anthurium plants, snake plants, and more.
Here are some of our most popular foliage plant guides:
Here’s a larger list of top plants to review
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 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 some of the most popular orchid plants.
Image Name Height Purchase Zygopetalum Orchid 2 Ft See Pricing Vanda Orchid 3" to 3 Ft See Pricing Phalaenopsis Orchids 1 to 3 Ft See Pricing Brassavola Orchids Varies by cultivar See Pricing Psychopsis Orchids Varies by cultivar See Pricing Phragmipedium Orchids Up to 3 Ft See Pricing Catasetum Orchid Varies by cultivar See Pricing Cattleya Orchid 3" to 2 Ft See Pricing Cymbidium Orchid 1 to 4 Ft See Pricing Phragmipedium Orchids 3 Ft See Pricing
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.