The identification of house plants by their leaves

Updated November 21, 2016

Plants passed among friends and family do not always come with identification and care instructions. Categorising houseplants in groups according to common characteristics may help you learn to identify the plants by their leaves.

Foliage Plants

Houseplants that feature foliage can be identified by comparing the plant's leaf size and shape, such as lobed or bladed. The leaf colours provide further clues. Leaves may be light, dark, variegated or striped. The plant's habit should also be considered. Habits range from compact and bushy to spreading or trailing.

Flowering Plants

A flowering plant may be identified by its foliage using these same steps when the plant is not in bloom. Blooming plants provide additional clues to their identities, as growers may consider the colour, shape, size and timing of the flowers.


Succulent plants have thick, fleshy leaves, and some feature spines. Examples include the jade plant and aloe. The category also includes cacti, which may be identified by spines, flowers, shape and size. The soil of succulents is often sandy.

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