11 Tips For Correctly Identifying Houseplants

houseplants

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:

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.

Origin

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.

Buy Self-watering Pots on Amazon now

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.

Fertilizer

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 Pl@ntNet 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:

Testing Houseplant ID App Is The Best?! | The Best App For Identifying Plants!

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:

Leaf Shape

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.

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.

Facebook Groups

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 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.)

Some of our favorite indoor plants are the fiddle leaf fig, English ivy, different varieties of Anthurium plants, snake plants, and more.

Plant NamePlant ImageOther NamesLeaf ShapeLeaf ColorDimensions
Chinese Money Plantmoney plant wikipediaPilea Pepeomioides; pancake plantround, flat, or heart-shapedbright green12" tall; 12" wide
Spider PlantJade Plant Two PeasChlorophytum comosumOvalJade green or yellow-green. Some varieties will also develop a red tinge along the edges.F5' tall; 2-3' wide
Golden PothosFrom English GardensEpipremnum pinnatum cv. 'Aureum' or E. aureum; Devil's Ivyheart-shaped leavesgreenUp to 39" long and 18" wide
Bamboo Palmparlor bamboo the sillChamaedorea, Parlor Palmevenly pinnate fronds with 11-2- leafless per frondlight green3' to 8' normally but can grow larger
Monstera DeliciosaMonstera DeliciosaSwiss Cheese PlantHeart-shaped with fenestrationsGreenLeaves mesaure up to 18" across and the full plant can grow over 10 feet tall
String of TurtlesPeperomia ProsrataPeperomia Prostrata, Magic Marmer, Turtle Strings, Chain of Hearts, Radiator Plant, Magic HammerRound succulent leaves resembling a turtle shellgreen with white linesAbout 12" tall
Snake Plantsnake plant gardening know howmother-in-law's tonguq, Sansevieria trifasciata, viper's bowstring hemplong succulent leaves in the shape of a fane or speargreen with white horizontal lines1-4' tall per leaf, and about 3" across per leaf
Purple Waffle Plantpurple-waffle-plant-red-ivyHemigraphic Alternata, Red Ivy, Red Flame Ivy, Cemetary PlantOval and crinkly leavesDark purple and green6-8" tall
Anthurium warocqueanumqueen-anthurium-warocqueanum-in-white-pots-1Queen AnthuriumLarged velevety leaves like wide spearsgreen and variagated12-18" or more in height; 12" or more in width

Here are some of our most popular foliage plant guides:

Here’s a larger list of top plants to review

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 some of the most popular orchid plants.

ImageNameHeightPurchase
zygopetalums-floweringZygopetalum Orchid2 FtSee Pricing
vanda-orchidVanda Orchid3" to 3 FtSee Pricing
purple-phalaenopsis-orchid-58f4eeda46dd4.425Phalaenopsis Orchids1 to 3 FtSee Pricing
B.+Little+StarsBrassavola OrchidsVaries by cultivarSee Pricing
Psychopsis OrchidsPsychopsis OrchidsVaries by cultivarSee Pricing
phragmipedium-orchid-plantPhragmipedium OrchidsUp to 3 FtSee Pricing
catasetum+orchidglade+jackCatasetum OrchidVaries by cultivarSee Pricing
cattleyaCattleya Orchid3" to 2 FtSee Pricing
cymbidium-orchidCymbidium Orchid1 to 4 FtSee Pricing
Phragmipedium OrchidsPhragmipedium Orchids3 FtSee Pricing

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

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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