We’ve all been there – there’s a plant or flower or two in the garden you’d like to bring inside, but you can’t quite tell the species. Or, you’ve seen a few houseplants at your friends’ homes, but they’re none the wiser on what they actually are! That’s where making use of one of the best plant identification apps can really come in handy.
As indoor horticulture has grown as a hobby over the years, there’s certainly more than one app that identifies plants. Most work pretty simply – just aim your camera at the plant you want to identify, and your app will do the rest (as if by magic).
But what are the best apps to identify plants by? Can you differentiate between them? Let’s get snapping…
Why use an app to ID plants?
You may wish to use apps to identify plants if, for example, you’re unsure how to look after a plant you’ve received as a gift. Or, you may see one or two specimens in the wild, and want to try clipping some to grow at home.
In these circumstances, you can just open up a plant ID app, take a photo, and wait for the service to give you an answer.
Of course, there are differences between these apps. For example, some may offer in-depth guides, while others only give you a straight answer.
We all have further questions about plants, too – do our plants die of old age, how much water do they need, etc. Thankfully, lots of plant ID apps give you care guides and analyses to help you make the most of your greens.
Apps that go in-depth may provide free advice, while some may arrive at a premium subscription cost. Essentially, the best plant identifier app for you should play to your interests.
Are you likely to want to identify plants and flowers a lot? Or, is this going to be an app that gets buried behind all the other gardening programs stored on your phone?
It’s worth comparing what’s out there so you don’t waste any time, money, or precious phone memory.
What are the best apps to identify plants with?
To help whittle down the list a bit, I’ve dug deep into some of the best plant identification apps available to download across iOS and Android. Take a look at the following and see if you can solve that burning horticultural mystery.
Planta’s a particularly interesting app as it does more than just identifying growths you aim the camera at. It also helps you to understand how to properly care for your new plant indoors – great if you haven’t a clue beyond filling up with water occasionally.
Planta is completely free to download, but its full feature set is only available through subscription. That means you get a nice taster of what’s available, but can opt for a minimum charge of $7.99 per month if you want to make the most of the ID and care advice.
Honestly, I’d choose the one-year subscription at $35.99, it’s great value if you have lots of houseplants and intend to keep on building up your green menagerie.
GardenAnswers is weighted towards outdoor plants but it’s also great at helping to ID houseplants you may not have much knowledge about. What I really like about this app is that there’s video tutorials built in, and it’s designed with US plant lovers in mind. It’s also got a massive help library.
It’s free to use the automated plant ID feature, but the premium service arrives with extra help, support and guidance (it’s $3.99 a year). Otherwise, you can use the ‘ask an expert’ service to send a detailed query to a genuine plant expert. This is chargeable at $1.99 per enquiry, so it’s not the best value if you have a lot to ID.
Plantsnap is a plant ID app that’s a little more adept than most at finding out the IDs of tricky-looking customers, with a 90% success rate. That may not sound like much, but it’s more accurate than a lot of the competition (and certainly one you can rely on if ID’ing by sight isn’t helping).
Just aim your camera at the plant you want to ID (once you’re in the app interface), and the program will try to work out what you’re growing.
The app has both free and pro versions, meaning you’ll need to spend a little cash to download the premium version. The difference is that there’s no ads, and you can ID more than ten plants each day. If these limitations don’t bother you, you can go ahead and keep snapping away for free.
iNaturalist is an impressive app as it’s actually a collaboration between National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences. Rather than giving you an automated response as to what your plant might be, you take a snap and share it with genuine, accredited horticulture experts all over the US.
This is also a wonderful app if you want to learn more about plants in general. The app also encourages you to share snaps of plants to help advance other people’s understanding of the natural world. You’re sharing knowledge as well as solving a few taxing plant problems!
It’s also a great app for identifying other flora and fauna – meaning birdwatchers may wish to give this a download, too. The best part? It’s absolutely free to download, register for and use.
If you prefer AI plant identification to human advice and guidance, PictureThis is a user-friendly app that lets you take a quick snap and wait for ID results. Like some of the apps listed above, PictureThis can even tell you more about how to care for your chosen greens.
Interestingly, Michigan State University has consistently ranked PictureThis as the most accurate and reliable plant ID app available to download – for several years now, beating back PlantSnap and GardenAnswers, both of which didn’t fare as well in a controlled study.
PictureThis is a free app, but you’ll need to upgrade to avoid ads and access all the best features.
PlantNet comes runner-up in MSU’s tests, and as another free plant ID app, it’s also one of the most popular with the general public. Like some of the other apps in this list, you can simply point your smartphone camera at your chosen plant while in the app and let the AI figure out what you’re growing.
PlantNet has a friendly interface and tends to provide lots of detail on both common houseplants and ornamental species. You’ll also find that this app thrives on user content, with its library depending on the knowledge and collaboration of thousands of users.
One downside, however, is that it doesn’t have databases for all territories yet – but I’m hopeful that will change in the near future!
Google Lens & iPhone Photos
Yes, really! If you have an android phone with Google Lens or an iPhone, there’s not actually any need to download a separate plant identification app if you just want to quickly find out the name of a given plant. This magic little feature is hidden away in your Photos app gallery for iPhone or under modes on a Google Pixel, so be sure to snap a pic and open it up.
In the Photos app, simply tap the ‘i’ for information on the panel below your photo. This will bring up a ‘look up’ feature and the word ‘plant’. Tap this and wait for the app to work its magic – and voila, your phone should provide you with photos and links to what it thinks your plant is.
On the Google Pixel or compatible android phone open the camera and under modes you will find lens – take a picture of the plant and it will immediately give you some suggestions as to which plant it is. You can then click through to find out further information via a Google search.
The bonus here is that it’s free if you’re an iPhone or Google user – though other apps will tell you how to look after your new mystery plant.
Plant ID apps are fantastic at helping us to understand our beautiful greenery that little bit closer.
Whether you just want to know what a new mystery flower is, or want help on how to care for it, all the apps I’ve tested above will give you a great idea of what to do next. Can you really be sure that’s a Hoya Kerrii you’re looking after?
There’s only one way to find out. Happy snapping!