A directory of online plant databases, primarily in the United States and Canada, for information on plant names, growing zones, research, and images to help ID plants.
Also see Seed Company Listings for the United States and Canada to find a seller near you.
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Finding the Plant Information You Need
One of the most comical (and sometimes frustrating) communication problems in the online gardening world starts with the use of common plant names instead of the scientific ones. We all do it—since they are much easier to remember and say—but the mayhem happens when we’re using the same word but not referring to the same plant species. Zoink!
Not that this is going to solve that problem (I’m an Empress, not a magician), but it is helpful to toss in the scientific name early in the conversation to ensure we are speaking the same language and talking about the same thing. Reliance on research instead of wives’ tales is also highly recommended.
Some of these databases (listed below) are helpful for identifying specific species and cultivars. There are also resources for identifying weeds and learning about invasive species. Every growing zone faces struggles and it is important to know which plants to avoid and encourage in your area.
I have listed some main databases I rely on for Canada and the United States. If you are looking for something specific to your region (there are hundreds more online), university extension offices (link below) are a great place to start. If they do not have the information you need, they can often direct you to someone who can.
This said, there are not perfect sources for factual information—in gardening or anything. Do you homework, be skeptical, question everything!—and happy gardening.
- All Plants | National Gardening Association Plants Database (US)
Search by characterisitcs, genus, and images
- All Plants | USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (US)
Includes common & scientific names, photos, growing zones
- Invasive Species | invasivespeciesinfo.gov (US)
Includes land and aquatic plants
- Native Plants | North American Native Plant Society Database (North America)
Search by type, habitat, light, soil conditions
- Trees | What tree is it? | (Based in Ohio, US)
Search by leaf, fruit, name
- Wildflowers | Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Texas, US)
Scroll to bottom of page for search box
- Invasive Species | invadingspecies.com (Ontario, Canada)
Includes terrestial and aquatic plants, fish, forest pests, invertebrates, and pathogens
- Native Plants | Evergreen.ca (Canada)
Browse by region, name, characteristics, and plant type or species
- Weeds | weedinfo.ca (Canada)
Search by broadleaf, grassy, and perennial weeds
- All Plants | UK – Royal Horticultural Society (UK)
Search by sun, soil, characteristics, plant type, or season
World Plants Database
- All Plants | canadaplants. ca (Canada and world) – link no longer active
Woody, bulbs, annuals, perennials, tropicals, wildflowers, and weeds
How to Find Your Frost Dates and Hardiness Zone
Plants by Species / Type
- Master List of Online Plant Databases – all plant types | Friends of the Garden
Includes listings of online plant databases for specific states, regions, and plant species.
Here are some popular ones:
- Clematis | Identify your clematis – good for figuring out which clematis you have
Also see National Gardening Association Clematis Database
- Ornamental Grasses
- Wildflowers – Regional Listings
Plant ID Phone Apps
IOS and Android
Photograph the plant with your phone. App (does its best to) identify it.
I’ve tested a few of these apps and this one performed best for me.
Garden Answers | http://www.gardenanswers.com/
Plant Research & Evaluations
- Search | Google Scholar for research papers
- Search | Chicago Botanic Garden plant research and evaluations
- Search | University Extension research papers | Check that research is peer-reviewed.
- Reference | How to properly write plant names | PDF file
- The Global Seed Vault in Norway | Learn how it protects seed species from around the world
If you have a resource to contribute, let me know in the comments.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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