How to Identify the Plants in a Garden


Gardens hold a vast amount of plants; unless the plants are labeled, it is difficult to discern one from another. Learning how to differentiate between garden plants is a useful skill and helps you properly care for them. Plant identification also helps with replanting, as some of the plants might be perennials.

Step 1

Use the camera to take some pictures of the unknown garden plant. Make sure to photograph the leaves and stalk from different angles. Write down in the notebook a description of the plant and any unusual characteristics, such as the shape, size and number of leaves. Record the color of the plant and texture.

Step 2

Check out some books on garden plants at the local library. Be sure the books contain a lot of colored pictures. Ask the librarian if he can recommend a well-researched plant guide book. Use the computer at the library to access the horticulture and gardening websites in Resources.

Step 3

Search through the plant guide book for the unknown garden plant. Refer to your photographs and description of the garden plant. Compare the pictures to those in the garden guide book. Select a couple of plants that best fit the characteristics of the garden plant and then narrow down the choices until the plant has been identified.

Step 4

Visit a home and garden center to inquire about the unknown plant. Bring the pictures and the notebook containing the brief description along. Show the photos and describe the plant to a gardening specialist to see if she is able to classify the plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Many plants often have similar features. Pay attention to the tiniest details of the plant in question. This will help verify its identity. Never eat a plant that is unidentified because it may be toxic to humans. Consult a doctor if plant ingestion is suspected. Some plants are poisonous to pets. If a pet has eaten part of an unknown plant, call a veterinarian for help.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera
  • Notebook
  • Plant ID book


  • United States Department of Agriculture: PLANTS Database
  • UBC Botanical Garden: Plants--Expert Identification

Who Can Help

  • My Garden Guide: Plant Encyclopedia
  • University of Illinois: Digital Flowers
Keywords: identifying garden plants, plant reference books, taking plant photos

About this Author

Since May 2009, Christina Delegans-Bunch has been pursuing her career as a professional writer. Her work has been published on eHow and GardenGuides. She holds a certification in floral designing and wedding consultation from Harcourt Extended Learning.