Best Plant Identification Apps

Having moved into our new house, we were faced with an almost bare plot we have now come to lovingly call our garden.The two raised, brick-lined beds on each side had a few plants just beginning to grow as we headed into February. There were two established trees, both were leafless and I couldn’t tell much from their bark or habit as to what they were. I knew I needed some form of plant identification app or forum, but which one ?

I’m no seasoned gardener. I’m a doctor by profession and took up gardening as a hobby (or as an obsession as my husband likes to call it!). My Story will tell you more about my gardening background if you haven’t already read it, but essentially, this plot is our first garden and my first year into gardening. Pretty daunting, eh. However, I had been fortunate enough to have a large garden in our previous rented house, where although I didn’t experiment with new plants, I learnt how to care for the ones that were already there. They were the usual culprits so I never felt the need to look up how to identify plants or to formally search for plant identification apps.

Now, to get to the point. As you can probably guess, I’m no Monty. I had no idea there were different types of lavender and ended up buying French Lavender. Unaware it was tender,I left it outside. It died,obviously. I struggled to understand why until a neighbor with 25+ years of gardening experience explained what a genius I had been. It was terrible feeling of guilt since I wasted money, time and most importantly, killed off those poor beautiful plants.

I sort of let that get to me too much. I started reading gardening books, plant identification guides, mugging up as much as possible as if everyday was an exam. That didn’t help. I did a lot of research trying to identify the new plants (and weeds!) that were taking over the garden.

I began with a funny looking structure on one of the flower beds :

I started with plant identification apps and tried various different websites and forums. Obviously, since it’s not a full plant yet, some apps called it ‘rubbish’ whereas some said it was ginger. Understandably so. I then tried searching online with terms such as ‘plants that look like ginger,’ etc. Hilariously enough, I came across some online forums where people with exactly as little experience as me, were asking similar questions and getting well-informed, timely answers from seasoned or hobby gardeners.

There are hundreds of online gardening forums where you can get this sort of support. So for any complicated gardening questions, you could try these forums. I found out within a day, thanks to the gardeners at Gardener’s World Forums,that the above is the rhizome of a bearded Iris. Indeed,for flowering,it needs to have the upper part exposed. Since I didn’t get around to doing that until late February, I didn’t get any flowers this year but I’m hopeful for next year !

However, given the nature of my job and the bare minimum amount of time I have for pretty much everything in my life, I try to work as smart as possible, as opposed to working hard. Ideally, I needed the best plant identification app on my phone which would immediately tell me what the plant was, what care it needed, and whether I needed to rip it out or move it – all this, whilst I was in the garden pottering around of course.

I worked with a number of apps over a year and here is my take on the best plant identification apps:

Candide

1. Candide

A gorgeous free app for both iOS and Android, with a plant indification tool, online community, ability to swap or sell plants, garden features, a wealth of garden knowledge, this is my go-to app.

That’s pretty much all of your gardening needs in one App. There are options to follow fellow gardeners and share your own plants.
This section is easily my bed-time reading or public-transport reading list, all in my phone! Pretty neat!
Next: Let’s put the plant identification tool to test (with a slightly difficult plant and a not-so-great photo taken to give the app a little bit of a challenge. The result is:
Not bad. It gets the overall genus correct, and actually, if you scroll down, the second shrub shown was my plant, ie Mahonia Media. The pictures and plant info that follow can help you identify the plant and then add it to your collection.

Also, Candide’s story, as written on their website is: ‘ Candide draws inspiration from Voltaire’s novel of the same name. His love song to gardening follows the journey of the lead character, through the trials and tribulations of life as he experiences extreme hardship and disillusionment. And yet, in the end, Candide is at peace with himself, life and the world through cultivating his garden. “We must take care of our garden” is his lasting profound reflection. Candide the app is a growing movement that encourages us all to reconnect with our gardens and share the joy of gardening. We believe that gardening is the root of happiness, and cultivates well-being for the mind and soul. ‘

For people like me, that’s enough to be a loyal fan but the true practical value of the app, ease of its use and the fact that it’s free, makes it sit at the top of my list. My only problem with this app is that sometimes, it cannot identify plants as well as some other apps can (see below).

2. Picture This

I’ve been using this app for longer than I’ve been using Candide. It’s not at the top of my list since it’s only for iOS and after an initial trial period, isn’t free. But there are various plans available and the prices are very reasonable for yearly plans. Despite these flaws, this app has almost never failed me in plant identification. I owe it my life for identifying Monkshood, an extremely poisonous plant, that was flourishing in my garden. It was one of the plants I let grow to maturity since I didn’t know what it was, and had been one of my ‘inherited’ plants.

The central camera button is the plant identifier but there is an online community and a place to save all your plants with their photos and their care needs.
You can explore gardens or garden-related shops, etc nearby.
A handy tool to store your plants. Clicking on each will give you details about the plant’s needs.
Let’s put the plant ID tool to test.
Like I said, this app usually gets it right at the first attempt. Very handy when you’re in the garden and want immediate identification to help decide whether weed or not. Sometimes, if you’re not certain, it’s best to let them grow and see what they turn out to be.
Once you’ve identified your plant, this app will tell you exacty what it needs. Beautiful!

There’s a wealth of other gardening and/or plant identification apps but I don’t believe in wasting time. One of these two is a free plant identification app, whereas the paid plant ID app (picture this) is still priced fairly. They both work well as plant identification apps, flower identification apps and tree identification apps, giving you a wealth of knowledge in just one small gardening app. Having given these apps almost a year, I am pretty happy with them and don’t think I need anything else for my gardening needs for now.

Their online forums are sometimes not as useful as standard online forums, probably because older, seasoned gardeners haven’t caught up to them yet but I would strongly suggest joining of the online gardening forums (there’s quite a lot, beyond the scope of this post) to help you our with your daily gardening questions. Or, don’t hesitate asking me ! I have learn through my mistakes and would love to save your plants if I can!

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