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What are some tips for identifying a houseplant?

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Quick Answer

The key to identifying houseplants is observing as many details as possible. Houseplants are usually identified by leaf shape, flowers, color, scent and growth habits, among other features. People who are trying to identify the plants should take as many notes as possible.

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Full Answer

There are a variety of illustrated plant identification guides available online. Some are specifically geared towards popular houseplant varieties. These are often separated by leaf shape and other factors for easy identification.

Click the Popular Houseplants tab near the top of the main page on Houseplants411.com for an alphabetized list of identified common houseplants along with photos and other details, and compare these with your plant specimen. Alternatively, click the Ask Judy tab; the site owner offers to identify plants for people who email a photo.

On Guide-to-Houseplants.com, select a descriptive category on the left side of the main page, such as Flowering Houseplants, Tropical Houseplants or Terrarium Plants, to display photos of identified common houseplants to compare with your specimen.

DavesGarden.com bills itself as the largest plant database in the world. Click the Guides and Information tab near the top of the main page, and then click the PlantFiles link to access names, photos and descriptions of various houseplants, which you can compare with your specimen.

On GoBotany.NewEnglandWild.org, click the Learn More button in the Advanced ID Tools section to begin a step-by-step process of identifying any of 3,000 plants species, including many houseplants.

Houseplant owners can also contact garden centers, extension offices or other professional centers for help. If the plant is small enough, the owner can bring it in directly. Otherwise, the owner can send or bring in a photograph.

Identifying the basic type of plant also helps narrow down the results. Houseplant keepers may benefit from learning the difference between major types, such as ferns, succulents and flowering plants. When an unidentified plant arrives, those knowledgeable people may be able to skip several steps in the search.

Leaf shape is one of the primary ways people identify plants, but some leaf shapes are fairly similar. People should observe closely and consider learning about the subtle differences between leaf shapes.

Growth habit is one of the factors in identifying a plant, but it can be confusing. It involves several metrics, including the size of the plant and where it seems to thrive. The type of growth also matters. Some plants grow tall and straight, while others tend to expand outwards.

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