Potted Plant Identification


Potted plants add color, texture and variety to front porches, patios, porches and gardens. Identifying the best plants for pots depends on your USDA hardiness zone, the size of the plant at maturity, and your personal color and texture preferences. If you have inherited or adopted a container of plants, a good garden guide or quick trip to your local nursery can help you with plant identification.

General Identification Tips

If you have plants in containers, but you do not know what they are, take note of their particular characteristics. Plant leaves can grow opposite one another or in alternating patterns up the stem. Additionally, their margins, or edges, can be smooth, lobed or serrated. Geraniums, a popular container plant, have opposite leaves and varying degrees of serrated leaf margins. Many geranium leaves are also variegated. Create a list of your plant's leaf, flower and fruit characteristics and you will be better able to identify your plant with the help of a plant identification guidebook.

Identifying Suitable Plants

Potted plants require you to provide their water and nutrients. The soil in containers dries out faster than plants in the garden. Additionally, limited space for root growth can cause plants to grow slower and smaller. When selecting plants, identify and prioritize drought-tolerant varieties when possible. This will save you time spent watering. Consider the bloom times. Staggered bloom times mean your container will provide color interest throughout the year. Determine the size of each plant at maturity. Flax makes a lovely centerpiece for a container, but the container must be large to accommodate the plant's mature root growth.

Annuals vs. Perennials

Both annuals and perennials can be used in containers. Perennials can be overwintered if cared for properly, saving you money the next season. Identifying whether a plant is an annual or a perennial is usually only a matter of reviewing the information on the plant's nursery tag at the time of purchase. If you are uncertain, however, make your list of plant leaf and flower characteristics and consult your garden guide.

Common Container Plants

Pansies are small, compact flowers that come in a variety of bright colors. They have variegated flowers made up of five petals arranged in a circular pattern. Trailing lobelia and impatiens are also common plants used to trail over the sides of containers. Both come in a variety of colors, though lobelia blooms are tubular whereas impatiens blooms are flat and open. Petunias are one of the most common container plants. There are so many varieties of petunia that you need to consult your garden guide for identification.

Edible Containers

Don't forget that containers can also be filled with edible plants. Both vegetables and herbs can be grown in containers. Herbs such as mint, creeping rosemary, sage and parsley make good container plants. Put together a container of all herbs, or mix them in with containers of annuals and perennials. Vegetables such as rainbow chard, lettuces and arugula can be grown in and harvested from containers.

Keywords: potted plant identifcation, choosing potted plants, plants in containers

About this Author

Erika Sanders has been writing since 1997. She teaches writing at the Washington State Reformatory and edits the monthly newsletter for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a national nonprofit organization. She received her Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College in Boston.