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How to Identify Garden Plants From Foliage

Updated February 21, 2017

When you stroll through a garden centre, you will usually find that most of the plants have been labelled and grouped on shelves according to their classification. However, if a plant is mis-shelved or missing its label, it can be difficult to determine what the plant might be. One indication of a plant's identity is its foliage.

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  1. Examine the plant carefully. Note the shape of the leaf, the colour, the vein structure and any unusual characteristics, such as variegated (striped) colouring.

  2. Write down the characteristics on paper, and draw a sketch of the leaves. This can help solidify the description in your mind.

  3. Consult a plant guidebook to help locate the possible plant species and family. Many guidebooks give general plant descriptions. If your plant has leaves that are similar to a plant pictured in the guidebook, you may have a hybrid of that plant.

  4. Take a digital photo of the plant's leaves. Digital pictures are useful for posting on web forums or e-mailing to experts for quick identification. Consult online identification websites or web forums designed to help identify plant species.

  5. Call your local County Extension office of the USDA or your local land grant college. These offices typically are staffed with agents trained to identify plants.

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Things You'll Need

  • Plant guidebook
  • Pencil and paper
  • Digital camera
  • Computer with Internet access

About the Author

Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.

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