How to Identify Indoor Plants


Commercially sold house plants are selected because they thrive well under conditions present indoors. The key to taking good care of your houseplants is to identify them. Unfortunately, there are thousands of varieties of houseplants in the world, which makes identifying a particular species challenging. But once you know what kind of plant you have, you can research the plant's needs and effectively plan a strategy of care that will allow your plant to thrive.

Step 1

Call your local nursery or the store where you purchased your plant. If the plant was a gift to you, then contact the person who gave you the plant. Plants are typically started from other plants, so contacting the supplier of the plant should help you identify the type of plant you have.

Step 2

Compare your plant to pictures in a guidebook. Note the shape of the leaves, stems, the overall height and appearance of the plant. If your plant looks similar to a plant in the guidebook, but not exactly the same, you may have a variation of the species.

Step 3

Consult an expert in the field. One area to start is to take a photo of your plant. You can send this photo to an agent in your local cooperative extension service to see if they know what it is. Other options include local greenhouse growers or online gardening forums.

Tips and Warnings

  • Care should always be taken when handling unknown houseplants. Some plants contain spines or may be poisonous in certain circumstances. Until you are certain you know what species of plant you are dealing with, it is best to treat all unknown plants as if they are potentially harmful. It is also wise to keep all unknown plants away from children and pets for this reason.

Things You'll Need

  • Telephone
  • Phone book
  • Plant identification guide
  • Digital camera


  • Horticulture Help
  • How to Identify Common House Plants
  • Aggie Horticulture

Who Can Help

  • The Encyclopedia of House Plants
  • Cooperative Extension System Offices
Keywords: house plants, container gardens, indoor greenery

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.