You can never have too many gardening book, and developing a good knowledge of plants and their characteristics in particular is always useful. It’ll help you get the most out of weekend rambles and foraging expeditions, as well as your own garden.
We’ve rounded up some of the best plant identification books available in the UK, from simple illustrated guides to in-depth resource books and extensive glossaries of Latin names. They provide plenty of information about each species, going into detail about their defining characteristics, preferred conditions and even the etymology of their names.
Best plant identification books
Trees, Leaves, Flowers & Seeds: A visual encyclopedia of the plant kingdom
For a comprehensive and accessible list of plants from across the globe, look no further than this visual encyclopedia. It’s designed to be engaging for children but also informative for adults.
Complete with detailed colour photos and illustrations, this handbook covers plants of all sizes and origins, from seeds and flowers to cacti and trees. Information is separated into groups, such as patterned, water-based and carnivorous plants.
There are also answers to some of the most interesting questions of the horticultural world, like ‘What exactly is a flower?'
RHS Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers
Inside the covers of this bulky hardback, you’ll find information on more than 4,000 plants, as well as a dictionary listing over 8,000 varieties. Like DK’s encyclopedia above, this RHS reference book opts not to organise plants alphabetically; instead, they’re arranged by type, size and colour.
In this latest edition, the authors have added 1,400 more plant varieties, as well as useful hardiness ratings to help readers plan their own gardens. Alongside the text, each page has a selection of vivid photos to support the information.
RHS What Plant Where Encyclopedia
This encyclopedia helps you learn and understand the many different plant groups, with a focus on establishing the ideal plan for your garden.
Adding photos and key information for each species, the book groups greenery into categories and lists the best options for different settings, such as clay soil, city gardens and windowsills. There are also ‘plant focus’ pages, where you can find out more about specific varieties.
More like this
What's that Flower?: The Simplest ID Guide Ever
- Buy now from Amazon (£6.30)
As many plant varieties look alike, it can be tricky to identify them correctly when you’re out and about. What’s That Flower? Is designed to remove the confusion. It presents groups of similar-looking flowers together on the page, making it easy to spot their differences.
It also reveals the distinguishing features to look out for when trying to identify plants, with reference to their shapes and habitats. In total, this book covers more than 150 of Europe’s most common flowers.
RHS Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Plant Names Explained and Explored
Latin for Gardeners provides a deep dive into the etymology of more than 3,000 plant names, touching on the pioneers who discovered the varieties and how they’ve shaped history.
There’s also lots of practical information about each plant, with handy pronunciation guides, as well as details about shape, colour and fragrance. This book stands out against other botanical handbooks, thanks to its beautiful colour illustrations.
Plant Names Simplified: Their Pronunciation, Derivation and Meaning
Plant Names Simplified has been around since the 1930s and, since then, it’s become a popular and respected reference point among readers. In 2019, Adrian Stockdale published this revised edition of Arthur Johnson’s book.
Inside, you’ll find an extensive glossary of Latin plant names, with information on their meanings. An ideal reference tool, this concise book covers an impressive list of flora in under 200 pages.
The World Encyclopedia of Wild Flowers & Flora
If it’s wild flora you’d like to identify, try this wide-ranging encyclopedia. It mentions more than 1,730 of the world’s plants, from flowers and trees to aquatic and meat-eating species. All the information is presented alongside 3,800 detailed photos, illustrations and maps.
This guide pays particular attention to geographical regions and plant habitats, as well as the changes different varieties have made in order to survive and thrive.
RHS Genealogy for Gardeners: Plant Families Explored & Explained
Another of the RHS’s beautifully illustrated handbooks, this guide to plant genealogy is accompanied by plenty of detailed colour drawings. It also provides a wealth of fascinating information, with insights into the origins and characteristics of more than 70 different plant families.
There’s even practical advice to help you improve your own garden, with handy tips on growing specific varieties of plants in your outdoor space.
Alice is a digital writer with a knack for tracking down the most innovative and exciting products to hit the market. Working across several of Our Media's special interest brands, she's written for publications including Countryfile, Gardens Illustrated and Science Focus. Outside of work - and lusting over homeware and gardening products - you’ll find her rambling in the great outdoors or watching an old film.
Claim your Niwaki Bundle worth £70 when you subscribe
Special subscription offer:
- Claim your Niwaki bundle worth £70
- Save 20%- £57.20 every 13 issues by Direct Debit
- Never miss an issue of your favourite magazine
- Free UK delivery- direct to your door *Available to UK residents paying by Direct Debit.