While gardening is viewed by some as a retreat away from our tech filled world, tech has a place in the garden. Access to information helps us to identify what’s growing and how to take care of it. These apps make it easier to find information fast—while you are standing right next to the plant you want to know more about.
The number of plant ID apps have exploded. Cameras have improved and databases have expanded. A quick scroll through the Apple app store or Google play store reveals over 50 various apps in the first three or four scrolls. Where do you even begin to figure out which one is the best?
Here are 10 you should consider:
Featured photograph by Michael Paulus, courtesy of Måurice, from DIY: An Artful Botanical Garland by Måurice in Portland, OR.
(iOs/Android – free) Google Lens does a very good job of identifying most plants. It’s as simple as opening the app and taking a photo. It can be used for many things, not just plants, but insects too. It compares the image of the plant against other images in its database and returns results in ranked order as to how sure it is. In a quick tour of the garden, Google Lens gave back quick and mostly correct results. It failed to correctly ID Solenostemon scutellarioides – Coleus “Shiny Shoes”, misidentifying it as Perilla frutescens, aka Shiso/Beefsteak plant. We chose the plant to test accuracy. The results are images that link to sites, where you can continue your search.
(iOS/Android – free or $24.99 per year) Very straightforward. Take a photo within the app or use one from your camera roll. It will return, in order, best matches, along with info on how to care for the plant. It did a good job on common garden plants but also had trouble with the Coleus “Shiny Shoes”. It has the option to add to “My Garden”, which can be used to track your plants or create a plant wish list. In addition, it includes a nice feature, “Ask A Botanist,” where you can send photos in and get help with your plants. The free version limits how much you can do but is still useful. The app’s main minus: It bombards you with popup ads.
(iOS/Android – free or $21.99 per year) Easy to use and returns results quickly and mostly correctly. Occasionally the app needs further help and will ask you to select if it’s a leaf, flower, fruit or bark before returning results. You can save plants called under the “My Plant” button. The free version puts popups between every step. Some are videos that need to be watched before you can move on. Premium is ad-free, allows for advanced identification, and access to the premium database. Like the other apps so far, LeafSnap also had an issue correctly identifying the “Shiny Shoes” coleus.
(iOS/Android – free) A joint venture between National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences, this educational app is a bit different than the rest. It allows you to set your location and has various challenges that are fun for kids or those that are kids at heart. Additionally it can identify insects. While easy to use, its identification falls short. Testing it with Japanese Stiltgrass, which the other apps identified quickly, Seek couldn’t identify it any further than a grass. For more common plants, it does well. For less common or new cultivars, it can identify the species but stops there.
(iOS/Android – free or $29.99 per year) Like the rest, it is very easy to use and quick with identifications and has a place to save the plants you’ve ID’ed. It correctly identified the Coleus “Shiny Shoes” with its second guess. What makes it stand out is its very large database and the ability to diagnose plant problems all at the same time. In other words, it can tell you which variety of hydrangea you have and let you know it may have fungus infection. It can also tell you if the plant is toxic. The premium unlocks the app’s limits and does away with all the annoying pop-ups.
(iOs/Android – free/donation) From the Agropolis Foundation in France, this app does basically what the others do, but is not as intuitive, and like a few of the other apps, it prompts you to identify what you’re submitting as a leaf, blossom, bark, fruit, habit or other. It does offer one thing the others don’t: the ability to join a group to share your observations. There are groups for world regions, countries, types of plants, in various world languages, and you can start your own group as well. It did a good job identifying common plants down to their species but had some trouble drilling down further. One thing that makes this app stand out is it pulls information from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) plant list and gives the plant’s rating when available. (IUCN categorizes plants (and animals) on whether or not they are stable, threatened, or in danger of extinction.)
(iOS/Android – per identification fee). This app uses actual humans, botanists, instead of an image database or AI to identify plants. You get one free identification when you sign up. Single identifications are $1.49, five cost $4.50 and 20 cost $15. The identification process takes up to 24 hours, but on average is one hour.
(iOS/Android – free/$2.99 monthly/$29.99 lifetime). This app works like the rest: you take a photo and the app gives you its best guesses along with the Latin names, description, and basic care. The free version is limited to five images a day and full of targeted gardening related ads. The paid version allows for unlimited identifications, no ads, and access to the PlantSnap website.
(iOS/Android – free or $36.99 per year). This app is focused on houseplants and grouped by rooms and your skill level. You can pick the beginner level, a room in your home, and set the amount of sun the room gets. You can guess the amount of light, or use the app’s built in light meter (paid option). Once done, you can start adding the plants you own in that room. While adding the plants you have, the app will warn you if the light doesn’t fit your plant’s needs. This continues with more questions on the type of pot and when it was last watered. It then creates a task list for that plant. If you are using the free version, it only sets up a watering schedule with reminders. If you purchase the subscription, it unlocks the plant identifier, more plant care schedules, plant recommendations that fit your rooms and skill level, a light meter and care guides. If you always kill your houseplants, this may be money well spent to save them.
(iOS/Android – free). Vera is an extension of bloomscape.com, an online houseplant retailer. You enter the plants you own, you can name your plants, add a bit more info, and the app creates a care plant with reminders. It’s fairly straightforward and it allows you to contact an expert with questions. You can also purchase plants and related items through the app from bloomscape.com.