Identifying House Plants
Is There A Practical Way For Identifying House Plants?
Identifying house plants may seem like a daunting task if you've never tried it before. It can be a little embarrassing not knowing what the plants in your own house are called should someone ask. Normally this is because you were either given a plant, the name of which the giver forgot to tell you, or may not have known in the first place, or you bought the plant and just have forgotten its name.
Wildflower books, and some garden books for that matter, classify plants according to certain characteristics. Wildflower books for example may categorize plants first by the color of their blossoms, then sub categorize them in terms of the shape of the blossoms. This may not be helpful in identifying house plants. For one thing, many house plants are grown for their foliage and do not have blossoms, or at least not conspicuous blossoms. Mostly, you'll need to go by the leaves.
A plant's leaves (long and green) may seem to be a little more difficult to describe than the blossoms (bright red with a yellow center and 6 petals). But with a little practice, you can become quite good at it. If you have 3 or 4 different house plants already, just look at the differences in their leaves. The differences are probably quite pronounced, even if you don't yet know how best to describe them. Just noticing the differences however, can help get you started.
Notice The Differences - At first being able to learn what a philodendron looks like, as opposed to a Christmas cactus may be sufficient. Both have shiny leaves but one has broad thin leaves, somewhat heart shaped, and the other has darker, not quite as shiny oblong leaves, that are joined together in "strings". You’re going to need some books on house plants or at least photos of different plants to get to the next step. Noticing how one plant's leaves differ from another, doesn't tell you the name of either plant. What knowing the differences between the plants does do however, is helps you describe the plant to someone else, say someone at the nursery or someone you're talking to on the phone. Your description, if detailed enough, may help them figure out what you're describing.
Studying books and pictures is really the best bet. It can be fun as well as educational. You can take things to the next level by really examining a plant up close, often a necessity in being able to tell one species from another. Often, if you are purchasing a plant for its blossoms as well as its foliage, knowing the characteristics of the foliage can tell you a lot about what to expect in the blossom. You may be getting a plant with a large red blossom, which is what you want, rather than a nondescript white one, even if the leaves look "almost but not quite alike" for the two species or varieties.
The Leaves Tell The Story - Look at the leaves closely. Three important characteristics are size, color, and texture - large or small? Dark green, light green, or variegated? Smooth and shiny, or dull and fuzzy? Look at the arrangements of the leaves and how the stem is attached. If they extend from the stem in pairs they are opposites, if not, they are alternates, if they come in groups of three, whorled is the right description. Even the pattern of the veins in the leaves, the color of the veins, and whether or not the veins stick out, will help you distinguish among species and varieties. There are several hundred different species of that favorite house plant, the philodendron, and a few varieties to boot. It will take some very close examination at times to determine just what variety or species you may have. Of course, maybe just knowing the plant is a philodendron will be sufficient for the situation at hand.
Summary - Purchase a book or two on house plants, there are plenty of good ones, or borrow one from the library. Look at images on web sites featuring house plants. Study your own plants, and study up close and personal those you'll see in the nursery (which should be labeled, making things much easier). In no time at all, you'll be able to "talk house plants" with anyone, and can have a great deal of fun while gaining that knowledge.