In recent years, the importance of the Gram-negative bacterium Stenotrophomonas as an opportunistic pathogen as well as in biotechnology has increased. The aim of the present study was to develop new methods for distinguishing between strains closely related to the potentially human pathogenic Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and those closely related to the plant-associated Stenotrophomonas rhizophila. To accomplish this, 58 strains were characterized by 16S rDNA sequencing and amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis (ARDRA), and the occurrence of specific functional genes. Based on 16S rDNA sequences, an ARDRA protocol was developed which allowed differentiation between strains of the S. maltophilia and the S. rhizophila group. As it was known that only salt-treated cells of S. rhizophila were able to synthesize the compatible solute glucosylglycerol (GG), the ggpS gene responsible for GG synthesis was used for differentiation between both species and it was confirmed that it only occurred in S. rhizophila strains. As a further genetic marker the smeD gene, which is part of the genes coding for the multidrug efflux pump SmeDEF from S. maltophilia, was used. Based on the results we propose a combination of fingerprinting techniques using the 16S rDNA and the functional genes ggpS and smeD to distinguish both Stenotrophomonas species.