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The New Essential Gardening Tool: Plant ID/Helper Apps

Plant Problems? There’s an App for that!

There’s a new essential tool for gardeners and nature enthusiasts that you may not have heard of. Can you guess? I’m talking about plant identification apps! Wait — don’t dismiss this tool as a new-fangled millennial app that sucks you into your phone and out of the real world. Read on to understand why plant ID apps can improve everyone’s experience of nature and solve your most common plant conundrums.

What are Plant ID Apps?

Plant ID apps help gardeners and curious nature-lovers identify flowers, trees, leaves, grasses and even mushrooms just by taking a picture. At first this simple feature might not seem revolutionary, but believe me you will find so many circumstances to appreciate it.

Have you ever been in a plant nursery and come across a beautiful specimen, wondered what it is, only to see that it is labelled something completely unhelpful, like “assorted tropical”? I have. The other day I spent 15 minutes in a store Googling foliage descriptions of what I now know is a parlor palm, all so that I could look into its care requirements to make sure it would be happy in my home.

With a plant ID app, I would have had that information in seconds! What’s more is that the best of these apps go beyond just plant identification and include amazing things like care guides for each plant, watering and fertilizing reminders for plants in your home and garden, plant experts and botanists on hand to identify rare plants, and even plant problem diagnosis (also facilitated by just taking a picture of the problem, like yellowing leaves).

Is your interest peaked? Read on to learn five common circumstances where you’ll wish you had one of these apps to help you out; number five is my all-time favorite!

Five Awesome Uses for Plant ID Apps

1. You are shopping for plants or received a plant as a gift and need to know whether it will be happy in your home or garden and how to care for it.

Whether there isn’t enough customer service in the store, the staff is not fully knowledgeable or you just need to know what that plant is immediately, Plant ID apps like PlantSnap and PictureThis are a lifesaver when shopping for plants. Likewise, when you receive a cutting or potted plant from a friend, the gifter may not know exactly what they are giving you. Your plant ID app will save you and your plant in this circumstance too.

2. You come across a plant while touring a garden or travelling in another country and you want to know what it is for fun, because your child asked, or to see if you can get one for yourself.

A photo of the flower or leaves is all you need to identify the plant’s common and scientific name with PlantSnap. Plus, it will include an informative description about the plant. In most cases, PlantSnap will even give you the specific variety of that plant. For example, when I took a picture of the lavender in my garden, it was specifically identified as English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).

3. Your plant is looking worse-for-wear, you don’t know why and you need some expert advice.

Take a picture of the problem area on your plant and PictureThis will immediately propose several reasons why your plant is unhappy and give suggestions to bring it back to health. If the automatic suggestions don’t fit the bill, you can escalate your plant problem to a botanist for personalized and professional advice. Or, tap into the hive mind at gardenstead — post a picture to Facebook or Instagram and receive a swarm of advice from people who have experience with your plant’s issue and are happy to share their tried-and-true solutions.

4. You frequently forget to water and fertilize your plants and need reminders.

Snap a picture of your plants with PictureThis and save them to your collection. Now enter in the watering and fertilizing frequency for each plant and turn on notifications for the app. You’ll never miss a watering again!

5. You go on vacation and need someone to look after your plants, except they aren’t familiar with how to care for them.

I thought I would never have a solution to this problem. Years ago, I lived abroad for 3 months and left my plants in the care of a well-meaning but completely inexperienced friend. I wrote her plant care manifestos for each of my dear plants, but it was no surprise that when I returned many of my babies had passed on to plant heaven.

I’m sure that if I had equipped my friend with an app that could identify plants with a picture, provide care guides equipped with FAQs, diagnose symptoms of unhappy plants and suggest remedies, and provide notifications for watering each plant, my plants would have survived.

On top of all that, a main reason this app would have helped my friend is the fact that it would have been on her phone. These days, a lot of people are more comfortable with phones and apps than plants. The average American checks their phone every ten minutes, but I think my friend checked on my plants about once a week. As someone who never cared for plants before, she just struggled to remember them even though she was living among them. I bet this app would have made her feel more comfortable and engaged with my plants.

Plant-Time Should Not be Phone-Time

As a final note, I wanted to address the fact that many of us need a break from our phones and electronics. These useful devices are almost essential to daily life now, but we need to protect ourselves from allowing screens to take over all areas of our life. The garden is a great place for this. For some, this might be why you garden. I get that. However, I do believe that these plant ID apps will only facilitate our spending more time with plants. They will bolster people’s confidence and efficacy in caring for plants, thereby encouraging people to take care of more plants. They can be used as a tool to engage screen-bound children to interact with plants and learn about nature, thereby sparking what would hopefully turn into a life-long interest in nature.

Try a Plant App for Yourself

Plant identification apps provide a lot of opportunities to empower people to get interested in nature and cultivate plants at home. I encourage you to experience these apps yourself, and to have fun exploring all the different ways you can put them to use in your garden and beyond!

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