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I love taking a scientific approach to growing plant indoors, here are my favourite technology gadgets for indoor plant lovers. Grouped into monitoring, watering and lighting options.

Contents

Soil monitoring devices

Sustee Aquameter

This moisture stick acts more like a wick, it absorbs moisture and turns blue when its wet. This is a simple to use device that tells you if the soil is wet or dry. There are 3 lengths of sticks and you can leave it in your pot permanently. The wicks however only last 6-9 months, since they are very cheap its usually worth a try. The sustee was invented in Japan and is a fairly new invention in 2018, I suspect you will see these included with a lot of new plants at the nursery.

Sustee AquameterSustee Aquameter Guage

Soil meter

Soil meters are a simple measuring devices that don’t use any batteries, instead they consist of a probe made of two different types of metal. When the metal is inserted into the soil it conducts and forms a circuit. Soil meters can give you a rough estimate of whether your soil is dry, moist or wet. The readings vary greatly depending on how deep your insert the probe or which part of the pot you stick it in. I’ve used it a few times when my plant soil felt dry but I wasn’t really sure if the lower half of the pot was wet. The moisture meters aren’t the silver bullet to determine when to water, however they are still good for beginner as they give a good starting point to know your soil moisture.

Soil moisture meter

Watering devices

Watering spikes

Watering spikes are simple porous ceramic plugs connected by a tube to a water reservoir. The ceramic plugs are inserted into the soil and slowly release water into the soil by capillary action. They are a cheap watering option, perfect if you are going on holiday.

The disadvantage is they don’t always give your plant the right amount of water, some plants like to have the soil dry out between watering. Watering spikes keep the soil constantly moist, they don’t work for all plant types and especially won’t for cactuses and succulents. You need to keep the reservoirs water level below the spike otherwise it can flood your plant. The great things about water spikes is that they are simple to use and fairly reliable once setup.

Ceramic Spike

Automatic plant watering and monitoring

PlantMaid

The PlantMaid is clearly the one I use the most as I designed it to solve a lot of problems. It an egg shaped device with a soil sensor, you insert the device into the pot and it measures soil moisture, temperature and light and automatically watering your plant with the built in water pump. The water is pumped from an external reservoir.

A one button push tell you the soil moisture level, average light and temperature over the last 24 hours as well as the last time the plant was watered. It is runs of 2 AA batteries and last for up to 1 year, it can be used in almost any suitable size pot.

Plantmaid automatically watering a Dieffenbachia while woman rests on the couch

Parrot Pot

The Parrot pot is a self-contained automatic watering pot consisting of a soil sensor as well as the water reservoir built into a cavity in the pot. The Parrot pot connects via bluetooth to your smart phone. You can setup automatic watering schedules and even manually trigger the watering pump. The nice thing about the parrot pot is you get nice graphs on your watering schedule. It runs off 4 AA batteries. The disadvantage is that you need to repot your plants into the new pot, the pot suits a medium to small plant but may not be everyone’s design taste.
Parrot Pot

Best apps for plant lovers

Lux Light Meter

This app uses the phone sensor to measure the Lux light intensity. It’s probably the easiest and quickest way to determine if your plant is in the best light position in your house. I did some measurements on this app using my Samsung Galaxy S9+ and they were surprisingly similar to the hardware lux meter I bought (see lux meter). In fact I’d recommend using the App for beginners as it the cheapest and quickest way to work out light levels. For more info on measuring light indoors see this article.
Using the app I got the following readings from my locations at home:

High light area: 9000-12000 lux.
Medium light area:  4000-8000lux

Lux Light Meter App

WaterBot

Waterbot is really just a glorified calendar reminder app. You add your individual plants with your own photo of them and setup a reminder schedule for each plant (i.e. 2 week timer). The App will notify you when your timer has expired. You could do the same with your normal smartphone calendar but this keeps your plant schedules in a simple and convenient app, you can also add notes for each plant which I like, such as “Make sure you check the soil is dry before watering”.

This app doesn’t give you any guidelines or suggestions on plant watering it’s purely a calendar reminder. You will still need to know how and when to water your plants.

WaterBot app screent

Sun locator lite

Have you ever wanted to know which way your living room is facing or how much sun it will get based on the time of year. This app shows you the path of the sun across your location so you can figure out if your plant is getting morning sun, afternoon sun, or no sun. You can adjust the slider to show the sun position at any time of day and the shadow that is being cast. Rather than using the position of the sun, look at the position of the shadow and place your plants in the correct room in the house.

Sun Locator Lite app screenshot

Terrarium

This is a fun game and I threw it in this article just because its so simply addictive. It does not really add any educational value other than to learn the names of a few houseplants. The aim of the game is to buy a plant, give it water and fertiliser and keep upgrading it to the next level….then you can unlock even more exotic plants. You will learn the names of a lot of common house plants. Don’t blame me if you end up frantically trying to water and grow your virtual plants!
Terrarium Garden Idle App screen

Light monitoring

Lux meter

A light meter is one of the most insightful items I have bought for my house. You can get some really cheap ones online ($30) and some more expensive ones ($200). They work by measuring the intensity of the light, which is ideal if you aren’t sure if you have your plant in a high light or low light area. I used a cheap lux meter and I was really surprised how little light my plants were receiving in middle of my living room. I never realised why my plants were fading in the living room until I moved them closer to the window. For some more info on measuring the light, have a look at this article.

Disclaimer: Lux meters only measure brightness according to the human eye, not the actual wavelengths that plants needs. This is fine for measuring sunlight but if you have fluorescent lights or grow lights you should use a PAR meter below.

Lux light measuring device

PAR Meter

A PAR meter is more accurate than a Lux meter for plant light because it measures only those bands of light (400-700 Nano meters) which are the most useful for photosynthesis. They are bit more expensive than a lux meter but can also be used when measuring artificial and LED grow light output. If you can afford a PAR meter it will give you a more accurate reading that a Lux meter but may not be worth the extra amount if you are just measuring sunlight intensity. A PAR meter will tell you the number of photons hitting the surface (PPFD).

Some sample values from your PAR meter:

Between 200-400 PPFD: This is great for seedlings.
Between 400-600 PPFD: This is great for early to late stage vegging cycles and medium light plants.
Between 600-900 PPFD: This is great for the flowering, fruiting, or budding stage of plants.
Hydrofarm PAR meter

Plant monitoring devices

Parrot Plant Power

The Plant Power sensor is inserted into the soil and measures the soil moisture, light, temperature and soil fertility. The device syncs to your smartphone by Bluetooth. The app has a good database with easy to use icons. You can get historic graphs of all the measurements. It runs off a single AAA battery for months.

What I liked: When you select your plant type it shows you the idea care requirements (i.e. Water level, Light level), the graph will show you whether you are meeting those requirements in real time. Parrot have put in a lot of effort in their research and design.
What I didn’t like: You need to check the app regularly to see how your plant is doing, it doesn’t give you any warning like ‘Your plant is low on water’. The device is a bit pricy.

Flower power plant sensor

Flower Care

Made by Xiomi, it’s effectively the same as the Plant Power above but is a lot smaller and much cheaper. It measures the soil moisture, fertility, light, and temperature. Like the Plant power it has a Bluetooth sync to your smartphone and keeps historical graphs. They also have a plant database on their app which is useful. The app is a bit simpler and not as comprehensive as the Plant Power but its a lot cheaper and well worth the money. It runs off a button battery for months.

What I liked: The device is small and good value for money.
What I didn’t like: It’s a bright white color so really sticks out in your pots.

Xiomi plant sensor

Herb growing systems

There are a lot of self-contained herb growing systems on the market, here are a few of the most popular ones:

AeroGarden

Aerogarden has some of the top of the line indoor herb growing systems and they have a variety of cheap and expensive models. With adjustable height grow lights and water pumps to circulate nutrients, they claim herbs grow 5 times faster in their systems. The system has configurable timers with an elegant LCD displays.  You still need to buy their custom pre-packaged seed pods.

Aero Garden

Click and Grow

Click and grow in a full self-contained herb grower that consists of a grow light. The click-and-grow grows herbs using custom grow pods (potting mix and seed pods). You need to fill up the base of the unit with water and then plug it into the mains power. The big disadvantage is that you need to buy their custom pods which has special potting mix and seeds, however the good thing is that these pods are “guaranteed” to work.  The system is the ideal way to grow herbs indoors on your kitchen counter.

Click and Grow hydroponics

Urbotanica

A self-contained herb and flower grower. The design and functionality looks like a step up from the click-and-grow. I like the fact that you can detach each pod separately and they have independent water supplies per pod.  You can use your own seeds and plant them in coir which you can buy from any nursery. This saves you buying custom pods like the other systems.

Urbotanica

Other herb growers: AvaGrow, PlantUI

Grow lights

Soltech luxury grow light

Most grow lights seem to be this clunky blue and red LEDs or fluorescent bar globes. But Soltech has managed to design a great 3000 Kelvin light (warm white) which has the correct PAR requirements for low, medium and bright light plants. It is on the more expensive side but is designed as an attractive stylish indoor light. If you want a light that will look stylish, and not some sort of science experiment then this is the light to get. It’s a great way to get your favourite plant into another area of the house that doesn’t get a lot of natural light.

Look at their web site to find guidelines as to how far away the light needs to be from the plant (typically 1 meter above your plant)

Soltech Grown light

MiracleLED grow light

This full spectrum grow light is cheap to buy. The nice thing about LED grow lights is they don’t get hot like the older style incandescent grow lights.

What I like: They give of a normal daylight color which you can use to replace normal lightbulbs in your house. They claim that this light will cost less than $1.50 per year to run.
What I don’t like: They only have bulbs with a screw-in fitting that work on 110V. Designed for the American market so may not work in your country.
MiracleLED grow light

Clever systems

Urban planty

This clever container setup for your balcony is perfect for apartments with smaller spaces. A single pole that fits on your balcony that is installed without drilling and contains up to 9 plants. They also come with their own drainage pots. You will still need to remember to water, but this is a great space saver is more compact than some of those bulky balcony systems.
Urban Planty

Hyrdoponics

Modern sprout hydro planter

This planter is surprisingly advanced for the simple design. It contains air pumps timer and staged feeding tubes. It doesn’t use any soil, the plants are suspended in reusable clay pellets. When the device is plugged into the mains power it circulates the water past the roots resulting in faster plant growth compared to standard wicking hydroponic systems. I also like the chalkboard paint on the outside hich you can customise yourself. However its fairly price at $199

Modern Sprout Hydroponic ChalkboardModern Sprout Hydroponic Chalkboard Diagram

That is my list of favorite plant gadgets for the Indoor plant lover. If you have any other great ones send me a message and I’ll include them.

Happy Growing.

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