Discover the significance of common and scientific names in houseplant care. Learn how scientific names offer precision, accuracy, and universal identification of plants. Find out how to identify houseplants using scientific names and enhance your knowledge and care of these leafy companions.


Are you a plant enthusiast or a proud owner of multiple houseplants? If so, you may have come across the confusion caused by the use of different names for plants. Some plants have common names, while others have scientific names, also known as botanical names or Latin names. In this guide, we will explore the glossary and terminology surrounding common and scientific names in houseplant care. We’ll delve into their differences, purposes, and benefits to help you navigate the world of plant names with confidence.

Whether you want to expand your knowledge about houseplants or properly identify a specific plant species, understanding the significance of common and scientific names is essential. So let’s dive in and explore this intriguing plant terminology!

The Difference Between Common and Scientific Names

Common names, as the name suggests, are informal nicknames given to plants in various languages, including English. They are often derived from the plant’s physical features, cultural significance, or common uses. For example, plants like Spider Plant, Aloe Vera, Peace Lily, and Jade Plant are all identified by their common names.

Scientific names, on the other hand, are internationally recognized and consistent across different languages and regions. These names, also known as botanical names or Latin names, follow a standardized naming convention developed by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century. Scientific names are based on a hierarchical system known as binomial nomenclature, which consists of a genus name and a species name.

The genus name is always capitalized, while the species name is written in lowercase. For instance, the scientific name for the Spider Plant is Chlorophytum comosum, where Chlorophytum is the genus name and comosum is the species name.

The Purpose and Benefits of Scientific Names

  1. Universal and Standardized Identification: Scientific names provide a universal and precise way to identify plants. This is especially important when communicating about plants across different countries, cultures, and scientific communities. Unlike common names, which can vary regionally, scientific names ensure that individuals are referring to the same plant.

  2. Specificity and Accuracy: Common names for plants can be ambiguous and vary regionally, leading to confusion. On the other hand, scientific names provide more specific information about a plant species. They allow for accurate identification and avoid confusion, as different plants may share the same common name.

  3. Information on Classification and Relatedness: Scientific names often provide insights into a plant’s classification and relatedness to other species. The hierarchical nature of scientific names helps categorize and organize plants based on their evolutionary relationships. By knowing the scientific name, you can explore the plant’s genus, family, and other taxonomic groups, which aids in understanding its characteristics and care requirements.

  4. Pet Safety: Some plants have common names that can refer to multiple species, some of which may be toxic to pets. By using scientific names, you can ensure proper identification and research whether a specific plant poses any risks to your furry friends.

  5. Avoiding Offensive or Racist Terminology: Unfortunately, some common names for plants are derived from historical stereotypes or discriminatory tropes. By using scientific names or alternative common names, we can avoid perpetuating harmful language and attitudes in the gardening community.

How to Identify Houseplants Using Scientific Names

Now that we understand the importance of scientific names let’s explore some practical methods for identifying houseplants using their scientific names:

  1. Plant Labels: Check the plant label when purchasing a houseplant. Plant labels often include both the common and scientific names, making it easier to identify the plant accurately.

  2. Online Resources: Utilize online resources such as plant identification websites and apps. These platforms often have extensive databases of plants, allowing you to search for a specific plant based on its scientific name. Some popular plant identification apps include PlantNet, iNaturalist, and PlantSnap.

  3. Plant Identification Tools: Some websites and platforms offer plant identification tools where you can upload a photo of the plant in question. The tool uses machine learning algorithms to compare the photo with its database of plant species and provides accurate identification results. Just Houseplants is an example of a website that offers a houseplant identification tool.

  4. Botany Books and References: Reference materials, such as botanical field guides and plant encyclopedias, are valuable resources for identifying plants using their scientific names. These references often provide detailed information about plant families, genera, and species.

  5. Online Forums and Communities: Participate in online forums and communities where plant enthusiasts and experts share their knowledge and help identify unknown plants. Posting clear photos of the plant along with any relevant details can greatly assist in narrowing down the possibilities.

Remember, identifying houseplants using scientific names requires some research and exploration. Be prepared to invest time in learning about different plant species and their unique characteristics.


Scientific names play a crucial role in houseplant care and identification. They provide a standardized and universal means of identifying plants, ensuring accuracy and precision in communication. By understanding the significance of scientific names, you can navigate the world of houseplants with confidence, avoid confusion caused by common names, and gain insights into a plant’s classification and care requirements.

Next time you encounter a new houseplant or need to properly identify an existing one, consider embracing the scientific name. It will not only expand your plant knowledge but also enhance your ability to care for your leafy companions effectively.

So go ahead and dive into the fascinating world of scientific names. Your houseplants will thank you for it!


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