How to Identify Garden Plants From Foliage

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.