The Web site helps you narrow down plants by color, bloom season, foliage characteristics, height, soil type (from acidic to well-drained), and so forth. We liked its simplicity, which shouldn't scare off technophobes.
To get started, plug the petal sensor into a PC, and then on the Web site pick from among three options: "Recommend," to learn which plants may fit a specific location; "Monitor," to check on a specific plant's health in its current location; or "Water," to learn how much a plant needs to drink.
With the Water option, you're supposed to stick the water sensor in the soil not long after a watering session. If the device chirps, then add water. The company recommends against using the Water sensor with a cactus.
If you have a large garden, monitoring all the foliage with EasyBloom could take a while. We chose the Monitor option to see if our Devil's Ivy was doing well in a window. After 24 hours of leaving EasyBloom with the plant, making sure leaves weren't blocking its sensors, we plugged the device into our PC. EasyBloom drew charts of environmental conditions, showing that the sunlight and average temperature were just right for that plant.Performance
EasyBloom generally performed as promised in our tests. We spent several weeks plugging the EasyBloom sensor into other plant pots, then uploading the data to its Web site, with good results. However, in a few instances the site failed to save data from the sensor, which had emptied its readings, so we had to restart the 24-hour measurement cycle.
To monitor plants you already have, you'll need to know their names first. We found many plants common to local nurseries. However, the PlantSense database is limited. For more than half of the dozen or so plants around our house, we had to look up the species at other Web sites. Trying various popular and Latin names, we could find neither our sedum plant nor our money tree on the PlantSense Web site. We faked it by pretending they were similar plants. We hope the company will integrate more listings as it fine tunes its Web site.
We wish the hardware included sensors to measure soil pH, which would be really helpful for determining what kind of fertilizer or soil a plant should have.
We'd also like EasyBloom to narrow down plants by the amount they need to be watered or fertilized. Down the road, perhaps a system like this could provide data about pollutants in the air. For instance, could we blame the proximity of our back porch to a busy road for the browning leaves of our sedum tree? More sophisticated settings might even, for example, warn you against placing particular plants next to each other, to ward off pests hungry for them both, or to prevent invasive species from taking over. That might be too much to ask for a device at this price point. More realistically, we hope that PlantSense will expand its Web site. Details about plants native to a particular region would help outdoor gardeners achieve more eco-friendly results.
One downside to the EasyBloom 24-hour environmental measurement cycle is that if you use it on a day with strange weather, you might need to repeat later for more average results. The system doesn't take into account geographic zones, making this most helpful for indoor plants. An outdoor reading in June in Vermont obviously won't apply in December.
Service and support
Tech support is excellent for this product, with online FAQs, introductory videos, a Quick Start guide, and a manual. Live customer help is available via a toll-free telephone number or e-mail address between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (PT). Support representatives responded quickly and helpfully to our phone calls.
Determining how to care for plants the old-fashioned way could take much longer and with less precision than EasyBloom, for which there's really no competing product on the market. Despite our wish list of features, EasyBloom is a fun and practical gardening assistant that could pay for itself.
If you're away from home all day, how else would you know that a dark window gets a blast of sunshine in the early afternoon? That knowledge alone could help you make a smarter choice about how to treat some shrinking violets, potentially saving money by preventing plant murder.