What Is That Plant?

— Written By and last updated by Tamara Carawan
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screen shot of Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox Find a Plant page

A common question we receive through the Extension office is what plant material can be grown in Pamlico County. Well, this is a difficult question to answer as there are thousands of options to choose from. To help with this dilemma, NC State Extension has created a website called the Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Through this website you can access a large database of numerous plant species, and utilize search and filter functions to select plants appropriate to your location.

You will need to navigate by computer or phone (mobile friendly) to utilize the Plant Toolbox. This website has several menu tabs to choose from including: Find a Plant, Identify a Plant, and Design Gallery.

screen shot of design theme section of plant toolbox

With these functions you can generate a list of plants that meet your specific growing criteria (sunny, wet, etc.), growing region (coastal plains, hardiness zone, etc.), landscape challenges/themes (urban, butterflies, etc.), and desired plant type (tree, shrubs, annual, grasses, etc.). As a general rule of thumb, it is always best to select plant material that fits your specific growing conditions. By using this database, you can generate a list of plants that meet your needs, tailored to your specific growing conditions.

Within the database you will find factsheets for each listed plant that includes a description of the plant and it landscape uses, photos of plants, a list of plant characteristics (leaf shape & color, growth rate, flower color, etc.), possible cultivar suggestions, and videos demonstrating the use of the plant in your landscape.

screen shot of azalea on plant toolbox

You can also use the Plant Toolbox to help identify plants by selecting plant features and characteristics to narrow down the possibilities (i.e., a tree with alternate leaf arrangement, bark color & shape, etc.). There is even a growing list of landscape design themes (butterflies, carnivorous, container, cottage, etc.) with photos of different gardens from across the state, and descriptions of plant material found in each. If you are unsure about what possibilities exist for your landscape, then browse through these themed gardens to find inspiration.

Once you find a plant within the database, you will also find suggestions for additional plant material that is similar in appearance or niche, common insects and disease issues of this plant, and alternative suggestions for native plants.

If you are new to gardening or are in need of inspiration, then consider reviewing the Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox and search out plants to fit your landscape. If you have additional questions about the Toolbox or questions about gardening, then please contact Daniel Simpson at 252-745-4121 or daniel_simpson@ncsu.edu.