There are thousands of books devoted to this subject. If you don’t know anything about plants but you want to know the bare basics this could be a good start for you. If you want more detail you will have to go to a book like I had in college: Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology This article will give you most of the things that you need to know to be able to identify and care for plants.

Latin Name

This is something at first I thought was silly until my professor gave me the obvious reason why. Latin is a dead language. All plants have a latin name, this allows you to communicate with people around the world and never get the plant wrong! When I am learning about a new plant I always memorize a few characteristics about it, starting with the latin name.

The best website I have found for finding seeds. It’s a free service, basically a seed search engine.

Common Names

This is just what it sounds like, it’s the name of the plant in your local area and local tongue. This can get tricky as there are only so many names and many plants have overlapping common names around the world. This is why you use latin.

Hardiness zone

There are 14 hardiness zones from the poles to the equator. This zone is all about how cold your regions gets throughout the year. I have a short article about zones here.

Soil Type

There are three “ingredients” to make soil: Sand, silt and clay. You can estimate how much of each is in your soil with a glass jar and some water. Here is a good explainer video on that process.


pH is super important. One of the biggest reasons actually is because certain elements are not “bio-available” at certain pH readings. Do not just skim over this image below. Really look at it and think about it for a while. For example, iron is very important for chloroplasts, in a way without iron chloroplasts cannot make chlorophyll and that is the food for the plant!

Water Requirements

There is really no rule for water requirements. All plants are unique! You can though think about where the plant comes from, the soil type that it evolved in, the annual rains where it evolved etc.


This for sure is the biggest rabbit hole if you know nothing about plants. Morphology is all about the concrete charactorists that make that plant what it is. Knowing morphology will help you identify plants.

Leaf Shape, edge (margin), veins and arrangement.

Memorizing this can be a challenge but worth it! Learning this will help you narrow down a plant with easy and this is so important.

Other import characteristics

  • Fall Color
  • Flower Color
  • Fruit Color
  • Root Type
  • Bark Type
  • Petiole color

Check out this powerpoint presentation that I taught to a gardening club.

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