Sept 2015 | Helen

At wifimypad we follow a strict feast or famine approach to watering plants. When at least 90% of our plants’ leaves are dead and it’s barely upright, we give it enough water to keep a rainforest going for a year. Which, we gather, is not quite the way the experts do it.

It’s not that we don’t love a bit of flora. The real problem is our complete inability to keep anything but the hardiest of desert plants alive in the harsh environment that we like to call home.

Perhaps this is you too, or maybe you’re far more green-fingered, but are looking for a way to water your plants while you’re on holiday?

Either way, pay attention because smart plant monitors are the latest gadget we’re checking out at wifimypad.

Wifimypad’s top plant monitor is…the Parrot Flower Power

Why? The Parrot Flower Power wireless plant sensor is a reasonably useful product and it does serve a pretty handy function – which is why we decided to give it a place in The Wifi Pad.

That said, the Flower Power doesn’t exactly come with our ringing endorsement, more of a “I guess you can come in…but we’d appreciate a bit more effort.”

Smart technology is still in it’s infancy, and it is safe to say that when the second generation of plant sensors and intelligent plant feeders that are currently in production, make it to market – especially those that actually dish the water out like the Parrot Pot and the Daisy.Si – the Parrot Flower Power is going to have to seriously up its game in order not to get the boot from The Wifi Pad.

Smart plant feeder

What were we looking for, and how did the Parrot Flower Power tick our boxes?

As is the case with most technology, it takes a couple of generations at least to iron out the initial glitches and develop the truly useful functionality.

Smart plant feeders are a pretty new product on the Internet of Things and we are firmly still in the first generation which means the current models still have some way to go to achieve greatness. That said we can already see the potential so we will continue to watch how this market develops with interest.

Functionality – what can it do? Does it cover the basics well and give you any notable extras?
The Parrot Flower Power is the plant equivalent of a baby-sitter. It keeps an eye on your flora babies, constantly checking their moisture levels and soil nutrition, and factoring in the amount of sunshine and the air temperature. The ‘smart’ bit, is that it will then let you know if you need to get on the case with the watering can or the plant feed, by syncing with an app on your phone or tablet that gives you the heads up on what your plant needs.

Unfortunately, where the Parrot Flower Power monitor falls down, is on its inability to then deliver the water that your plant requires. So, if you are looking for a plant monitor purely to deal with your flora’s needs while you are on holiday you are going to be disappointed. It’s not much help knowing your prize orchid is keeling over with thirst when you are 6,000 miles away on the beach in Rio.

That said, there are no plant monitors available to buy yet that have this functionality. However there are a couple currently in production that will cover this base, so the Flower Power should not be resting easy in its (flower) bed.

Connectivity - is it compatible with Apple and Android? Does it use a wifi or Bluetooth connection? How reliable is the connection?
The Parrot Flower Power has both iOS and Android compatible apps and it uses a Bluetooth connection. The Flower Power is not yet wifi compatible though so you will need to be within the vicinity of the sensor in order to sync data.
Usefulness of app(s) - how useful is the associated app and can you sync data with other health apps?
The app is pretty handy as it contains an enormous catalogue of plants so you can ensure that you are getting the right conditions for the specific plant(s) you are monitoring. No point in giving your lemon tree the same amount of water as you would give a cactus – even us flora-phobes at wifimypad know that.
Does it look good? – with plant monitors, looking good comes second to subtlety so our plants are still the star of the show, so how does it do?
The Parrot Flower Power is twig shaped, neat and compact, and available in three colours. Its design makes it easy to use. Holding the two branches of the twig lets you put the stem into the soil where it senses the moisture content using an environmental sensor. The batteries also fit into the stem neatly – no wires or battery packs sticking out. The blinker, which serves as a visual indicator, is useful for notifying you of something that requires your attention. Basically this is a device that you want to be subtle so as not to steal the show from your prized Azaleas, and it achieves that perfectly.
Value for money – does it come with a price tag that'll leave you considering a move into the artificial plant market??
Bearing in mind that you are getting a fair amount of tech in this small package, the Parrot Flower Power is priced pretty reasonably, it can be found for as little as £30.99 on Amazon (at the time of writing).

However, given that most plant fans will have far more than just the one plant in their homes, it quickly adds up for every extra monitor you want. So unless you REALLY love your plants, you may just have to choose your favourites, or perhaps your most high maintenance plants, and monitor those, and cross your fingers for the rest!

Though that approach could be why we only have the single surviving Yucca in The Wifi Pad…

The home foot spa test – a.k.a. is this a genuinely useful smart product, we’ll give the heave-ho to products that you are likely to only use once before relegating them to the local charity shop collection box.
While we concede that there is a distinct benefit to this gadget, especially for busy plant lovers, we are not completely convinced of its merits in its existing state.

A water-supplying device feels like a far more natural fit to this problem enabling you to swan off on your holidays without fear of returning to a plant massacre. So, Parrot Flower Power, you are in The Wifi Pad for now, but we are watching the next generation of water-supplying, plant monitors with extra interest to see if they do a more complete job.

What do others have to say about the Parrot Flower Power?

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Intro to Parrot Flower Power

Parrot Flower Power H2O - coming soon

Which other smart plant monitors did we check out?

Koubachi wifi plant sensor 

Available in indoor and (the more expensive) outdoor versions, the Koubachi wifi plant sensor is very similar to the Flower Power in terms of its functionality, however,as it is more expensive than the Flower Power, critics tend to think it doesn’t deliver enough bang for your buck. Negatives include the excessive set up time when you are dealing with a number of different plants, and slow recommendation time. Looks-wise it’s quite slick, but not exactly subtle, which for us, makes it too ostentatious for something that should play second fiddle to your house-plants.

Parrot Flower Power H2O – coming soon

Like it’s predecessor, the Flower Power, the FP H2O monitors the soil that your plant is in to ensure optimum conditions and alerts you to any plant nutrition situations. Where it goes one better is that you can connect it to a water source (pretty much any plastic bottle seems to fit) to deliver the required moisture in exactly the right quantities at the right time – over a period of up to 3 weeks, plenty enough to cover our summer holiday. The downside is that having a big plastic bottle stuck in your plant is a bit of an eyesore, however, assuming you only require the watering function when you are on holiday, you won’t be seeing it, so all is good again.

Daisy Si – coming soon

Daisy Si is a plant feeder that not only senses the moisture in the soil around the plant, it also supplies it with just the right amount of water on a continual basis. You just need to keep the water source from running dry – not difficult given that the Daisy Si will notify you with a sound and light signal. The Daisy Si is easy to use and automatically comes on when inserted into the soil. It is compatible with all operating systems and its flower shaped sensor transmits data when held close to the screen. s quite slick, but not exactly subtle, which for us, makes it too ostentatious for something that should play second fiddle to your house-plants.

Parrot Pot – coming April 2016 

The Parrot Pot is a second-generation smart plant pot which comes with a water reservoir built into it. It is designed to take care of your plants for entire month in your absence – more than enough for you to go on holiday and come back to thriving plants. The Parrot Pot regulates its water supply according to the plant it is monitoring, and it is equipped with a database of about 8000 plants. The Plant pot is white and simple, and is entirely inoffensive design-wise. The only downside is if you are particularly attached to your existing plant pots.

Frequently asked questions:

What is a smart plant monitor?

A smart plant monitor is a device that continually assesses the moisture level in the soil of your pot plant. They come in two varieties, those that measure moisture level in the soil and alert you – via an app – to the fact that your plant is getting a bit parched, and those that can do that AND dish out the right amount of water.

How does a smart plant monitor work?

Suitable for use in plant pots or outdoors, smart plant monitors have a little sensor that you place (permanently) into the soil. This sensor continuously measures the moisture and fertilizer levels in the soil as well as temperature and sunlight, and that’s when the smart bit comes in. The monitor is able to crunch these numbers and alert you via your phone or tablet when you need to water or feed your plant, which allows even the least green-fingered among us to chuck a bit of water on our plants long before they keel over.

What is the future of smart plant feeders?

However, that’s just the start…the next generation of smart plant feeders is already on the way to take things to the next level.

The latest range of smart plant feeders will do all the measuring that their predecessors did and update you via your phone but they will also dish out the water, at the right time, and with exactly the right amount.

Now unfortunately this doesn’t mean you can entirely absolve yourself of plant responsibility because you’ll still need to refill the water dispenser periodically but this will allow you to get through several weeks, even during a hot summer or your annual holiday, without your plants biting the dust.

The Daisy.Si, the Parrot Flower Power H2O. and the Parrot Pot smart plant feeders are both due for release to market very soon. We’ll check them out once they are available.

What are the downsides of smart plant feeders?

These really are quite handy little devices, especially if you love your plants and have no-one on tap to step in for watering duty when you are on holiday. However, if your house is like a jungle you could easily bankrupt yourself with the number of devices you’ll need to buy. Maybe you’ll just have to pick your favourite plants and sacrifice the rest?

But even if you are willing to splash the cash on your plants’ well being, another downside is that some of the feeders currently in production haven’t had enough consideration of camouflage for our liking. The monitor itself is usually a fairly small and pretty subtle electronic device with prongs that poke into the soil. However, when you add the water supply to this – in the form of either a large plastic bottle attached to the monitor to dispense the water, or a tube linked to a separate water source stood near to the plant, and suddenly your plants become a slightly less aesthetically pleasing addition to your home.
Obviously if you only plan to use your feeder when you go away, you won’t be there to look at it anyway, so it’s not a problem. But if this is a permanent solution to feeding your plants you may have to buy plants with large foliage to disguise the water source…or buy prettier bottles.

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