Ways to carry out your own plant identification
There are thousands and thousands of different plants and their different variaties in the plant kingdom and plant identification can sometimes be a very daunting process. With only a few tricks, you can eliminate and break down the plants components to get near enough to categorize it or jog something in your memory that can bring the exact name back to your memory.
The majority of plants have a flowering period, a time they will go to seed, a time they could do with a prune and a time that they will shed leaves, if they are indeed deciduous.
If it flowers during the winter, this is of course a winter flowering plant and due to the rarity of winter flowering plants, this will narrow it down somewhat to identifying what it is.
Plants with silvery foliage are often known to like the sun, requiring at least 4-5 hours of sun a day. Others also have small hairs on their leaves to enable them to hold onto more water, allowing they to be some of the most drought tolerant of species. This same method is used with cacti and the Northern Mexican plant Dasylirion wheeleri, originally from the arid deserts of Chihuaha which has spikes at the end of its leaves with feathered tips allowing it to hold onto water at its tips with very little surface area for evaporation.
Many shade loving plants will have larger than average leaves with a glossy texture to capture light and catch as much as possible of it by having a larger surface area.
If a plant looks dead and you can't be sure, just take a nick out of the stem and check its colour inside. If it is a dry wood with no green inside, chances are it's dead. However, if it's light with an outer coating of bright green it is definitely alive even though it may look dead through its dormancy period.
There are so many ways to identify a plants' family, ideal situation or even its particular name if you look closely, break it down, eliminate what it isn't and even look at what insects are attracted to it. The plant kingdom doesn't have to be a huge chore and just by going out there and looking at labels in garden centres, reading books and using a process of elimination you can have a solid knowledge when you most need it.