How to Identify Tropical Houseplants


A wealth of tropical plants decorate interior spaces, often so many that it's sometimes difficult to know their names, either botanical or common. Several resources exist that allow you to investigate plants through visual comparison or by asking more knowledgeable plant enthusiasts for their identification skills. Consulting photo-rich literature, and visiting garden centers and botanical gardens with collections of interior and tropical plants in greenhouses can lessen the dilemma in trying to learn a houseplant's identity. Taking and posting digital photos online is also an easy solution.

Step 1

Visit your local library or bookstore. Peruse directories or sections of the facility with plant and gardening books and magazines. Look through books with titles pertaining to "tropical plants" or "common houseplants" to see if there is a broad selection of full-color photographs to examine. See if you spot your plant in these photo rosters.

Step 2

Jot down the names, common or botanical, of the plant you think may be a match of your mystery houseplant on a piece of paper. Include the difficult-to-spell or -pronounce botanical names as they are the definitive way to research and identify a specific plant. Plus, some plant experts you ask may only know botanical names.

Step 3

Go to a local retail garden center or nursery with a tropical greenhouse that sells houseplants. Often looking at the benches filled with plants will reveal the plant you already have in your home. Look for a plant label or ask a store worker for help learning a name; write down the information gleaned.

Step 4

Walk through a botanical garden or conservatory and seek out the resources on plants there. The facility may have a collection of houseplants in their buildings, or a greenhouse filled with labeled plants, a bookstore or library with literature specific to various plants.

Step 5

Take a digital photograph of your mystery plant and post it to a photo-hosting site. This will allow you to post your photo in plant-identification forums online and ask people worldwide to identify the plant in the photo. Check back regularly to the website where you posted your image, and request and monitor responses and investigate leads other plant enthusiasts provide.

Tips and Warnings

  • Tropical plants grow outside year-round in regions that do not experience freezes (temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit). Don't waste time at gardens outdoors looking for tropical plants if you are not in the subtropics or tropics.

Things You'll Need

  • Tropical houseplant
  • Digital camera or digitized photos


  • Identifying Houseplants
  • Identifying Houseplants for Proper Care
Keywords: houseplants, identifying plants, what is this plant?

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for The Public Garden, Docent Educator, numerous non-profit newsletters and for's comprehensive plant database. He holds a Master's degree in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne's Burnley College.