Identifying houseplants can be tricky business. There are so many varieties of each plant that a comprehensive guide would be thicker than a set of encyclopedias. Fortunately, there are resources that have the plants narrowed down and well organized so you should be able to identify all but the trickiest plants without too much problem.
Several sites on the Internet are recommended as good resources for identifying plants. One of the more popular sites is gflora. This site is an encyclopedia of houseplants and features more than 300 varieties complete with descriptions and pictures. One of the nicer features on this web site is that it offers a “families list”. This may help you to narrow down the plant that you are interested in by family. The downside of this list is that the families are listed by their Latin names and not by common names; if you suspect that your plant is some type of ivy, you will not be able to click on an ivy link to find the plant because “ivy” is a common, not a Latin name.
Another site that might help you with identification is Dave’s Garden. This site has a section called PlantFiles, which is the largest plant database in the world. These plant files are conveniently organized into categories such a “most commonly grown plants”. If you sign up as a member of the site, you will be able to interact with Dave and with other users. When it comes to identifying a difficult plant, it is a good idea to have plenty of opinions to go from.
The horticulture department of Texas A&M offers a great web resource. This site can be found at Aggie Horticulture. The site offers the same type of A to Z guide that is found at the gflora website. The advantage to the Texas A&M site is that the plants are organized by common names as well as the scientific names. This is a great advantage if you are not a botanist and not familiar with all of the Latin names. Chances are good that if you are a botanist familiar with the Latin names you will need a more comprehensive resource than those suggested in this article.
The final Internet resource that I’d like to recommend is the forum provided at UBC Botanical. This forum offers you the option of posting a picture of your plant and asking for help in identifying it. If you don’t think that it will be “fun” to identify the plant yourself, ask someone on this site. You might even just look through the old posts and see if anyone has already posted a picture that matches up with your plant.
Several books out there will help you to identify your plants. Maybe the best one is The New Houseplant A-Z: Everything You Need To Know To Identify, Choose, and Care For the 350 Most Popular Houseplants. This book is a great resource because it is a no fuss-no muss identification guide. The book offers over 600 pictures in only 128 pages. This means that a lot of information is given in a small amount of space. Not only does the book help you to identify the plant but it also lets you know how to care for the plant once you have identified it.
Even if you aren’t able to nail down the exact plant, you will probably be able to find a plant that is similar. Similar looking plants have similar care needs. If you absolutely can’t find a match for your plant, choose a close plant relative and follow those care instructions.