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Houseplant Identification Basics from Derek from The Crazy Botanist, Ep 116

houseplant identification

So we’ve all been in a garden center and picked up a plant, or had a friend give us a cutting and look at the plant in our hands and think “ummm what is this thing?” Today’s episode is all about learning some basic skills for identifying houseplants and how to observe our plants in order to get to know them better. We are joined by Derek of The Crazy Botanist for a higher level conversation about basic houseplant identification, and how to change our thinking around plants to see them for their leaf shapes, flowers and other identifying factors instead of just a name. This episode is a nice palate cleanser that encourages us to zoom out in our relationship to plants, in addition to the intense nerdy specifics we always like to deep dive on. I hope you enjoy it.


In this episode we learn:

  • [02:05] Introducing Derek and episode key ideas
  • [04:17] How Derek got into the plant parent life, where his obsession with plants started, and how he uses his degree in Botany!
  • [06:23] How are plants classified? What is binomial nomenclature and how is it used to classify any living organism?
  • [09:32] Derek breaks down the hierarchy of binomial nomenclature and the questions related to each denomination
  • [12:54] What should we be looking for when identifying houseplants? What should we keep in mind when describing plants for identification?
  • [15:33] What is the bestand easiest!way to identify leaves?
  • [17:39] Derek emphasizes the importance of proper communication in plant identification
  • [18:26] Why Maria recommends having screen-free time with your plants
  • [19:06] Derek shares his method of identification when going plant shopping—which you can also do!
  • [21:07] A short history of plant identification methods and how the internet has made plant identification easier today
  • [23:24] Where to get the most amazing indoor and outdoor gardening products and the best potting mixes
  • [24:24] The best resource for your seed starting this season
  • [26:30] How do you identify the flowers in your houseplants? Derek enumerates some factors that will help you with flower identification.
  • [33:10] What identifying factors should you look for in stems? Do snake plants even have stems?
  • [35:06] What are some houseplants that don’t look alike but are actually closely related?
  • [37:03] Are there plants that look alike but are not related? Of course!
  • [38:52] How do you tell maranta, calathea, ctenanthe, and stromanthe apart?
  • [42:59] Where does The Crazy Botanist go for plant identification resources?
  • [46:26] Derek reiterates the importance of accessible and understandable scientific communication
  • [48:00] A little begonia identification lesson with help from the American Begonia Society!
  • [51:20] Maria reflects on plant identification and how it helps us become better plant parents and better members of the plant community


Mentioned in our conversation:

Thank you to our episode sponsors:

Territorial Seed Company

Thank you Territorial Seed Co for sponsoring today's episode! Territorial Seed Co provides high quality seeds and plants (over 2000 varieties) that are tried and tested on their 75 acre farm and have a ton of fall varieties for us to try! It's already time to start planning your 2021 garden! For seeds, plants, online garden planner, how to videos and more visit and use code BLOOM10 for 10% off.

Espoma Organic

Espoma Organics: for responsibly made, fabulous indoor and outdoor organic soils, fertilizers, pest control sprays and more visit to find your local dealer or check out my amazon storefront of my favorite Espoma products here.



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