How to Identify House Plants: Everything You Need to Know to ID a Mystery Plant - Backyard Boss
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How to Identify House Plants: Everything You Need to Know to ID a Mystery Plant

Whether you want to increase your house plant knowledge, want to identify a tagless, nameless house plant you unexpectedly inherited, or just impress your friends with your ability to compliment their pothos without batting an eye, being able to identify house plants is a great skill to have.

This complete guide will covers everything you need to know about identifying house plants, including descriptions of specific features of common house plants, the differences between doppelganger house plants, and reviews of the best house plant identifying apps.

Common House Plant Descriptions

There are certain plants that everyone seems to have. Because of this, a little house plant knowledge can take you a long way when it comes to identifying common house plants.

Below are descriptions of the house plants you are most likely to encounter.

Spider Plant

One of the most popular house plants of all time is spider plants because they are quick growers, easy to take care of, and excellent air purifiers. They have long, grass-like leaves that jut out from the plant’s center, like the legs of a spider stretching out from its body. The leaves are green with cream edges and produce plantlets at their tips. They prefer indirect light and make excellent hanging plants.

    Spider Plant in Custom Planter

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    The spider plant is among the most adaptable houseplant and very easy to grow. A graceful plant that makes a statement anywhere—from a tabletop to a mantle, or with its lovely arching leaves as a hanging plant. The Spider Plant is also known for its tremendous air purifying qualities, making it a healthy addition to your home as well.

English Ivy

You definitely have seen English ivy hanging around before, this elegant plant adds romantic vibes to the rooms it occupies with its gorgeous cascade of tendrils. Those tendrils can reach up to 100 feet in length due to English Ivy’s prolific growing capabilities. The leaves are a dark green color with a slick, waxy appearance, and palmate veins. They tend to have a heart-shaped base and 3 or 5 lobes. Greenish-yellow flowers can grow on English ivy in the fall, eventually turning into berries with a blackish color.

    Live Variegated Ivy in 6-Inch Grow Pot

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    This 6-inch growpot comes with a healthy, fully rooted variegated English ivy. Proper care of a variegated ivy requires that you place the ivy plant in indirect or filtered bright sunlight. Variegated ivy leaves will burn if placed in direct sunlight. Variegated ivy will do best on a window sill behind a sheer curtain.

Prayer Plant

These striking house plants are known for their intricate leaf patterns and nighttime “prayer” ritual, which involves the leaves of the plant slowly rising and folding up in a motion that resembles hands coming together in prayer. The leaves come in different colors but most commonly have red veins, a dark green color, and a light green “rib” around the central vein. The leaves are large and oval-shaped and stretch out on long stems from the plant’s center. Preferring warm conditions, but not too much direct sun, these plants are normally positioned near windows.

    Red Prayer Plant in Custom Planter

Buy Prayer Plant at Bloomscape
    The Maranta Red Prayer Plant has soft dark green leaves with feathered, painterly-like centers of light green and red veins. The colorful foliage and slow growth make this a perfect plant for window sills, mantles, or shelves that need a splash of color.

Weeping Fig

You will be weeping with joy if you ever encounter a weeping fig; these common house plants are beautiful, with soft grey trunks and glossy green foliage. The tree’s leaves are oval-shaped, bright green, and grow out from the top of the trunk, pointing downwards. Some varieties have leaves with cream-color on their edges while some even have braided trunks. This is an adaptable, durable plant that requires minimal care and adequate sunlight.

    Wintergreen Weeping Fig Tree in 8-Inch Pot

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    The Wintergreen Weeping Fig is a new introduction from Europe. The tree thrives in low light, which is unusual for a Weeping Fig. Keep evenly moist, not wet or dry and trim as needed.

Fiddle Leaf Fig

The fiddle leaf fig tree is a “fig” deal- it’s an incredible indoor plant that has recently risen in popularity to the extent that nurseries have trouble keeping them in stock. It’s no wonder why, with it’s big, dark-green leaves that have an unusual violin shape, this tree is a show stopper. The leaves grow out from the tree’s central trunk, which can grow to be quite tall if you let it. They are fairly easy to grow and require indirect sunlight to flourish.

    Fiddle Leaf Fig in Custom Planter

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    The Fiddle Leaf Fig is famous for its broad, vibrant green leaves with prominent veining. It prefers a stable environment and can be fickle when temps fluctuate. Keep it in bright light, and water about once every 1-2 weeks.

ZZ Plant

These indestructible indoor plants have grown in popularity because they are perfect for individuals with brown thumbs- to kill them you quite literally have to try to and they STILL might live. They have fleshy, oval-shaped leaves, that are dark-green and glossy. The leaves are small and grow in pairs in rows on the plant’s brownish, light-green, wand-shaped stems. Their waxy-sheen and ability to grow with minimal care and only fluorescent lighting often make people mistake them for fake. Is there a way to identify fake ZZ’s plants from real ones? Absolutely not, unless you plan on cutting open some leaves.

    Large ZZ Floor Plant in Decorative Planter

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    The ZZ floor plant’s lush, glossy-green leaves cast a chill vibe that reminds you to stop and take a deep, calming breath. Is it normal to like a plant more than people? (Asking for a friend). Plant Perk: Thrives on neglect so you can breathe easy.

Nerve Plant

The thing that stands out about nerve plants is there multi-colored veins. Depending on the variety, the veins might be bright white, pink, or red, standing out against the dark green color of the leaves. The leaves are shaped like spades and attached to furry, light green stems. Nerve plants do not grow to be very tall, but the intricate patterns on their leaves makes them stand out. If they are grown indoors, nerve plants tend not to bloom, but when they do their flowers resemble reddish-whitish spiked, which tend to be overshadowed by the nerve plant’s incredible foliage. These hardy, interesting plants make incredible house plants.

    Pink Nerve Plant in 2.5-Inch Pot

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    The Nerve Plant is an easy to grow house plant requiring only bright, indirect light. It also grows well in terrariums. Keep the soil moist... but never soggy. Feed monthly if the plant is actively growing... bi-monthly when resting. Trim as needed.


You absolutely know someone with succulents, if you don’t already have one yourself. There are over 60 succulent plant families, and over 10,000 succulent species. Because of this, succulents can come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but typically as house plants tend to be notably small and have fleshy leaves. If it’s a small, weird-looking plant in a trendy, tiny pot, it’s probably a succulent.

    Mini Succulent Trio in Custom Planters

Buy ZZ Floor Plant at TheSillcom
    This adorable trio of assorted succulents require bright light, but little else. Petite in size, they make a great desk addition to your home office so you can really settle into your work from home routine. And they come handpotted in your choice of our mini 2.5-inch planters, so you won’t need to get your hands or workspace dirty to enjoy them.

Lucky Bamboo

Consider yourself lucky if you see one of these! With their interesting styling, these plants are living art. The stems tend to be upright, twisting, or bent into eye-catching patterns. They have medium-green stalks and thin, surfboard-shaped leaves that jut out of the top of the bamboo. These plants are extremely easy to care for and fast growers. Often, they are grown in shallow pots full of small pebbles.

    Live Potted Mini Lucky Bamboo Plant

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    Mini in size but max on positive energy, prosperity and luck... it’s easy to see why this bamboo is great for gifting. Its size is made for #desklife! Plant Perk: According to feng shui principles, lucky bamboo will bring positive energy into a home, office or wherever it’s placed.


Orchids are excellent flowers for growing inside, with delicate, butterfly-shaped petals that come in a variety of colors, ranging from vibrant pink to a peaceful white to multi-colors. Growing on long stalks that are often held up by think stakes, these delicate flowers are more durable than they look. They can last for months indoors, requiring little care, and even being able to tolerate some lapses in watering.

    Purple Orchid

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    Often called the beginner orchid or ‘moth orchid’, the popular pet-friendly Phalaenopsis orchid is one of the easiest varieties of orchids to grow as a houseplant. Indoors, it will typically bloom about once a year, for up to three months.

Snake Plant

It’s fairly obvious why the sansevieria was given its common name, with its thick, long leaves that stand upright like a snake balanced on its tail. The leaves have a striped light green and dark green pattern, and some varieties even have a yellow or white color on the leaves’ edges. The snake plant has no stems, no branches, and no blooms. Its compact and controlled growth is what makes it such an excellent houseplant.

    Sansevieria Lauren in Custom Planter

Buy Sansevieria Lauren at Bloomscape
    Sansevieria Lauren has stiff, upright, sword-like yellow leaves. Its architectural nature makes it a natural choice for modern and contemporary interior designs.

Peace Lily

This stunning house plant gives rooms an air of elegance and serenity with dark green leaves and pure, white flowers. The peace lily’s flowers have bright yellow centers framed by white petals that are the shape of a flame. The dark green leaves are large and ridged, making this a gorgeous plant when it’s in bloom and when it’s not. Peace lily’s in direct sunlight will bloom, while in indirect sunlight they just add refined greenery to a room, actively filtering out air pollutants.

    Live Peace Lily in Decorative Planter

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    The Peace Lily plant is as graceful as it is useful... It helps purify the air while its white bracts add just the right touch of simple beauty & positive energy to a space! Plant Perk: The more soil surface area, the better this plant is at capturing toxins and purifying the air. So, keep those lower leaves trimmed!

Red Aglaonema

More pink than red, the vibrant leaves of this plant are eye-catching and show-stopping. The glossy light green leaves have pink accents on the stems and on their edges, with the pink in some cases overshadowing the leaf, and sometimes remaining at bay letting the light green shine. The leaves are reverse heart-shaped and glossy. Easy to care for, not requiring direct sunlight, and having relatively controlled growth, Red Aglaonema makes a great house plant.

    Red Aglaonema in Custom Planter

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    A showstopping beauty with vibrant green, pink, and red foliage – the easy-going Aglaonema only looks hard to care for. This low maintenance houseplant will add a pop of color to any interior space, but to keep its coloring bold, place your Aglaonema in bright to medium indirect light indoors.

Plant Doppelgangers

While the plant descriptions above should help you identify most common household plants, there are some that can be tricky to identify, not because they lack eye-catching features, but rather because they have similar features to other house plants.

Below are the similarities and differences between some dopple-greenery!

philodendron brasil variegated houseplantPothos vs. Philodendron

These plants look so similar that not only do homeowners grow them for years without knowing their correct identity, they are also sometimes mislabeled by retailers.

No, they aren’t different varieties of the same plant, although they do come from the same plant family, Araceae. However, philodendrons are in the genus Philodendron, and pothos are in the genus Epipremnum.


It is undeniable, these two plants look VERY similar. Both of them have heart-shaped, bright green leaves, that grow on vines and tend to trail or climb. They both grow to be around the same size. They are also both low-maintenance and make excellent house plants. In other words, unless you know what to look for, it’s likely you will use their names interchangeably.


Philodendron leaves tend to be a bit wider while pothos leaves are thicker and glossier. Of course, unless you are looking at the plants side-by-side it can be hard to notice these differences. Try actually feeling the leaves. Philodendron leaves feel velvety while pothos leaves have some texture. Pothos also have solitary aerial roots while Philodendrons have clustered aerial roots.

    Ultimate Shelfie Set with Custom Planters

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    Both the Marble Green Pothos and Philodendron Green are quick growing, yet low maintenance, trailing plants that eventually cascade their way down the sides of their planters. They'll turn that shelf in your bedroom or office into a tropical oasis in no time.

Dracaena vs. Bromeliads

While these plants have fewer similarities than Pothos and Philodendron, they still are often mislabeled and confused by people which can be problematic because they do have some different care requirements.


Both plants have similar long leaves that are bright green with white or lighter edges. The leaves jut out from the plant’s center giving them a shrub-like appearance. Because of this, without flowers they can be extremely hard to tell apart.

    Bromeliad Pineapple in Custom Planter

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    Bromeliad Pineapple is a unique, beautiful plant that will grow an edible pineapple fruit. This stunning plant will add a tropical splash to any space that will surely spark a conversation. Plus, when the fruit is fully grown and ripe, you can eat it!


The biggest difference between bromeliad and dracaena plants is that bromeliads tend to grow a large, bright flower right in the middle of their foliage while bromeliad tend to grow a stem with small white flowers when they actually bloom. Because of this, when the plants are flowering you should have no trouble determining which is which.

    Dracaena Marginata in Custom Planter

Buy Dracaena Marginata at Bloomscape
    This Dracaena Marginata variety is tall with an open braid weave consisting of 4 canes or stems. Its thin, green leaves banded in red or pink on top of slender stems make a delicate, slight abstract silhouette.

Plant ID Apps

If you read this entire guide and thought, “But this is so much to remember!” fear not, as always technology is here to make the task easier.

Consider getting a plant identifying app on your mobile device!


You can easily identify all kinds of plants, not just house plants, with PlantSnap. There are over 600,000+ plant varieties in the app’s database, so it can identify 90% of all known plant and tree species. Of course, this app isn’t foolproof, it does have trouble with some plants it shouldn’t, but overall you will be satisfied with it.

You can use PlantSnap anywhere on the Earth and it has translations in 37 languages, which is great because it is one of the most popular plant identifying apps around the globe. There is even an interactive component where you can share photos and comments about plants with other people who use the app, creating a global learning environment.

You can start out with the free version but you eventually have to upgrade to the premium version. If you are the kind of person who encounters a lot of plants you want to learn facts about on a daily basis, this is a great app for you.

A plant expert at your fingertips

Picture This

Picture This has over 30,000,000 users and a database with over 10,000 plants. They have information on flowers, trees, succulents, cacti’s, fruits, vegetables, you name it, they probably have it.

Picture This is all about being a quick and easy platform to use to learn about plants, with an intuitive set-up and rich and detailed content on the plants you snap pictures of.

They include fun facts about the plants, beautiful pictures of the plants from around the world, and plant care tips.

The only downside of Picture This is that it’s only your first 3 identifications that are free, after that you have to pay for the app to access the rest. Of course, if you think you will use it often, this app is totally worth that price.

 PictureThis: Identify Plant, Flower, Weed and More


PlantNet has over 1 million users which is great because what really makes this app shine is its interactive components. Users can take pictures of plants and trees and then the app identifies them based on their fully stocked database, what part of the plant you took a picture of, and your geographical location.

Like the other two apps, this process doesn’t always work out perfectly but if the app is unable to identify the plant you can ask other users of the app to help you identify it.

The image recognition on PlantNet is not as accurate as Picture This but the app is completely free, so if you are just experimenting to see if a plant identification app is something you would use, then this is a great one to start out with.

PlantNet Plant Identification


Now you know everything and have the tools to successfully identify house plants wherever you go! Have fun impressing your friends with your plant prowess and never be left in the dark about what care a plant requires again.

I hope you found this article helpful! If you did, be sure to share it, and comment below with any plant identifying questions!