How to scan QR Codes on plant tags and signs

Updated October 14, 2020

While many phones now come with a built-in QR code reader, you may still want to download a QR code reader app for your smartphone or tablet to scan the tags. In this journal, we cover several options for scanning QR codes.

Know that the age of your device has something to do with how well QR code scanners will work. The ability to scan is directly related to the camera optics and newer phones have vastly improved cameras.

Also check your cellular or wifi internet access as a bad or weak connection may also disrupt the ability to scan a tag as well. Other conditions such as low lighting or movement of the tag (holding the tag in one hand and scanning with the other) can impede scanning. Make sure you are not blocking light or the tag is not moving.

One other instance that has occurred is the tags may over time become dirty and the QR code is no longer clear and clean. The tags can be easily cleaned with just a spray of water or with common cleaners such as Simple Green or Windex.


Smartphones now have built-in QR Code scanners

  • iPhones: As of July 2017, iPhone operating systems now have a built-in camera setting that can detect a QR code just by using your camera without an app needed. Simply open the camera on your phone and aim toward the tag as though you were taking a photo. A pop-up message will occur asking if you want to open the web page. When you update your operating system or buy a new iPhone, it will automatically be set to ‘Scan QR Codes.’ You can visit your camera phone settings to turn off this feature as well. See How to scan QR Codes on iOS devices (iPhones, iPads)
  • Android Phones: To scan QR Codes with the Android 9 operating system, open your camera and point it at the QR Code on the Plants Map sign or tag. You will see a notification asking if you want to visit the Plants Map page for that plant. Click the notification and the plant web page will open. See How to scan QR Codes on Android devices.  

Twitter Now Has A Built-in QR Code Scanner that was launched via their mobile app update in 2016.

  • iOS Phones: There are 2 ways to access the scanner from the Twitter for iOS app: 1) Go to the Connect tab: Tap the search icon and tap QR Code. This will bring up the scanner. 2) From your profile page: Tap the gear icon  and then tap QR Code. Tap QR scanner.
  • Android Phones: There are 2 ways to access the scanner from the Twitter for Android app:  From the navigation menu icon or your profile icon, tap QR code. This will bring up the scanner. 2) From your profile page: Tap the overflow icon and then tap QR Code. Tap QR scanner.

Microsoft Windows Phones – It has come to our attention that like the website browser compatibility issue of using Internet Explorer (no longer supported by Microsoft) on a computer, you will need to update your Windows Phone to the new Microsoft Edge mobile browser. You may also need to check that your QR code scanner has also been updated on your Windows phone.

Additionally, we have learned that as of July 2017 Microsoft will not be updating our supporting their Windows Phones. So future compatibility issues with mobile websites and Windows phones may be an issue.


More Trouble Shooting Tips

There are many other free readers available in the app stores. We’ve tried dozens of them. If you want to try some, just search for “QR Code Reader” to get the list of available QR Code reader apps. Be sure that you are using a QR code and not a barcode scanner.

There are two things to be aware of when you use these QR code reader apps:

  1. Some of these QR Code reader apps have their own browser built into their app. We have seen some that display the linked page but the buttons aren’t clickable on the page. Most of these apps have a setting to open pages in your phone’s default browser. This is helpful if you are scanning tags for your own plants because you can sign in to PlantsMap.com with and then when you scan a tag, immediately start editing your plant by adding more information and photos.
  2. Some QR Code reader apps also read other kinds of codes. If you are trying to scan a QR Code and the scanner isn’t working, make sure you aren’t on the UPC scanner setting.
  3. Older QR Code readers only see black on white and you have to go into the settings to change them to scan our tags which are the inverse, white on black. New scanners can read both and can adjust automatically but check your settings just to make sure if you are having difficulty.

We plan to incorporate our own QR reader in future developments of a companion app for our website. Until then, you can either use the QR Code reader of your choice.


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