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:
Describe the shape of the leaf. Is it oval, round, or long and skinny? Are they angular? Are they frond-like?
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.
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 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.)
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 of 49 of the most popular orchid plants.
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.