If you need to identify an unknown houseplant you might find that the task is harder than it appears. The problem is that if you don’t know the name of the plant, you will be hard pressed to look it up by going through pictures. Hopefully this will help you identify your common houseplants without too much stress.
One place to start when you need to identify a houseplant is to look on the web. Several good web sites can help you in this endeavor. Two of the better sites, offering tons of pictures as well as well-written descriptions, are The Encylcopedia of Houseplants and Aggie Horticulture. You will have to go through the pages and pages of pictures but the sites are well organized so you can narrow down your search by using the features of the plant.
Another website that offers an interesting approach to identifying plants is the BBC’s gardening site. This web site offers both an A to Z index (just like the previously mentioned sites) but it also offers a “plant finder search”. To use the search you choose options from pull down menus. The options include the color of the foliage and the color of the flowers as well as special features about the plant. Then you click on search and thumbnail pictures of plants meeting your description are offered. Clicking on the thumbnail pictures, you will get to see descriptions of the plant, including identifying features and instructions for caring for the plant.
If you aren’t crazy about using the web to identify your houseplants, there are books out there to help you. One of the books specifically written to help with houseplant identification is The New Houseplant A-Z: Everything You Need to Know to Identify, Choose, and Care for the 350 Most Popular Houseplants. This book, written by Peter McHoy is self-explanatory. It is a book to help you identify your plants. The book features over 600 pictures of the 350 most popular plants but it isn’t a humongous encyclopedia of a book. In fact, the book is only 128 pages long. It is a simple and well-written guide to plant identification.
Other tricks for identifying plants include learning about the different types of leaf structure. Botanists use leaf structure to specify different types of plants. There are three different kinds of leaf arrangement. Some plants have leaves that grow opposite of each other from a single node on the stem. This arrangement is called “opposite”. Other plants have leaves that alternate, each node only has one leaf coming from it and the direction that the leaves face alternate. There are also plants that are “whorled” meaning that more than two leafs grow from every node.
Venation is another way that botanists identify plants. Look carefully at a leaf from the plant you want to identify. You will be able to see the veins running through most leaves (in some plants, like ferns, you will not be able to see the veins). There are two broad types of venation. The palmate veined leaves will have several veins spreading out from one place of origin. The pinnate veined leaves will have a main vein running the length of the leaf with small veins branching out from the main vein.
Learning about leaves and being able to identify your plant’s leaves by their technical features will help you to identify the plant. If you find that you just can’t get the plant identified by yourself, take one of the leaves or even a picture of the plant to a greenhouse or a nursery. There are also websites where you can post your picture and get identification help from indoor gardening enthusiasts.