Three plant sensors want to be your garden assistant

These plant sensors can connect your garden to give your plant a voice. We break down their strengths and weaknesses.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

The smart garden is one of the newest frontiers for smart device technology. We recently reviewed three connected plant sensors, all of which promise to feed information about your plant and its growing environment to your phone. Their goal is to help you become a better gardener by monitoring your plant's vitals, like moisture levels and sunlight, giving you care advice, and letting you know when something is wrong. We found the reality wasn't always as helpful as we'd like.


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Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Wise Garden Advisor

Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor

The Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor is a standalone device you place in the dirt by your plant, where it connects directly to your router. There's an indoor version sells and a rain-resistant outdoor model. Once the system is up and running, you can access your plant's info from Koubachi's website, or via its iOS or Android app.

With a range comparable to PlantLink's and a depth of features matching Parrot's, you're theoretically getting the perfect all-in-one plant sensor from Koubachi. It does indeed offer the best hands-off care, but poor responsiveness and a high price tag limit its appeal. On the bright side, Koubachi's free app is so useful that it alone can help you keep to a plant-tending schedule. Trying that first might help you determine whether you want to add a sensor for more active garden monitoring. Read the review of the Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor.


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Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Nimble Plant Protector

Oso Technologies PlantLink

The PlantLink only measures moisture levels, making it the most limited sensor in terms of features, but it nails every aspect of this one task. The PlantLink has the most personality, the quickest readings and recommendations, and the friendliest reminders of the group. The initial cost for the Basestation and your first Link is $79 and falls in the middle of the pack. However, you can buy additional Links for only $35 (international pricing has not been announced), making the PlantLink system the cheapest one to scale. The Links talk to the Basestation using a dedicated Zigbee radio frequency. This specifically aimed, low-energy frequency results in the best range of the group and long lasting battery life.

Since it only measures moisture, you'll need to check outside resources for long term care aspects such as sunlight preferences and fertilizer. Additionally, though Oso's database contains the most plants, it's also the least useable with no pictures or information, and bad search software to boot. Still, if you need help with simple moisture monitoring of multiple household plants or a small yard, the PlantLink is for you. Read the review of Oso Technologies PlantLink.


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Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Eccentric Garden Doctor

Parrot Flower Power

The Parrot Flower Power was my least favorite of the group, but it's not without merit. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy to talk to your phone or tablet and only has an iOS app at the moment. Without a Wi-Fi connection, you have to be within Bluetooth range with the app open to get new information. Thus, this garden guardian feels limited. It can't tell you something is wrong with your plant unless you're already right next to it.

The Parrot's strengths lie in the broad set of data it collects and stores accurately. If you have a sick plant and can't figure out what's wrong, or you're a citizen scientist looking to study the conditions of your garden, the Parrot Flower Power can help. Read the review of the Parrot Flower Power.

About the author

Andrew has been writing for a while, especially if you include the superhero comics he wrote as a kid. More recently, he was the lead writer on a textbook for Kaplan, but now, he’s made the trek from Chicago to review appliances in Louisville. Andrew gets excited by smartly designed tech, particularly when it gives him superpowers in his own home.

 

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