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Parrot Flower Power review: This connected garden sensor has trouble with communication

This garden sensor knows what's wrong with your plant, but is reluctant to let you in on the secret.

Andrew Gebhart Former senior producer
10 min read

Parrot, the maker of the AR Drone and a multitude of hands-free communication devices for cars , brings its connectivity prowess to the world of plants with the $60 Parrot Flower Power. A standalone sensor, Flower Power is battery-operated and Bluetooth-enabled. You place it in the soil next to your plant, pick your plant from the Parrot plant database, and it will diagnose any issues and help you monitor your plant's needs for long-term care. Flower Power monitors and collects data on soil moisture, sunlight, temperature, and fertilizer. With all of that capability in tow, Flower Power hopes to be the all-purpose garden guardian.


Parrot Flower Power

The Good

The Parrot Flower Power collects a variety of plant-relevant data accurately and uses it in conjunction with its excellent database to make plant-specific recommendations.

The Bad

The device can only transmit data to a Bluetooth LE-enabled iOS device, meaning you need to have a relatively recent version of an Apple device just to use it. You also have to be close to the device to get any data, limiting your ability to monitor your plant or get alerts on the go.

The Bottom Line

For data lovers, the Flower Power tracks and charts well. For everybody else, the Flower Power lacks the convenience of the competition.

As a plant rescuer, Parrot's product works well, if a bit slowly. If you have a plant that's suffering and you're having trouble figuring out why, Parrot can help. However, as a plant monitor, Parrot's offering doesn't stack up to the competition. Oso Technologies' PlantLink is faster and monitors moisture levels more efficiently, and Koubachi monitors the same conditions as the Flower Power and offers better connectivity for long-term care. I can't broadly recommend the Flower Power, since most consumers will find a better fit for their garden care elsewhere.

The Parrot Flower Power assesses your plant's conditions (pictures)

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Available on Amazon, the Apple Store online, and on Parrot's website, the Flower Power is an unobtrusive, twig-shaped sensor available in blue, green, or brown. You insert the included AAA battery into the short stem. Put the cap on to hold it in place and the light on the long stem will blink as it looks to establish a connection.

Insert Flower Power into the soil next to your plant and and it will collect and store data on moisture levels, sunlight, temperature, and even fertilizer. It communicates that information to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth Low Energy. You'll need to have the app installed to receive the data, and currently the app is only available on iOS, though Parrot has promised an Android version soon. Your phone or tablet will also need to be compatible with Bluetooth LE, meaning you'll need at least the iPhone 4S, the iPad 3, or a fifth-generation iPod touch.

You'll finish the setup by connecting the Flower Power with Parrot's free app. Through the app, you'll tell Parrot about the plant you're monitoring, identifying the type of plant via the extensive plant database, then filling in the location and a nickname. Flower Power works both indoors and outdoors, and can use the GPS of your connected device to find the exact location of your plant.

The initial setup is quick, but you'll need to wait 24 to 48 hours for Flower Power to read the conditions before it can make its first plant-specific recommendations. It does have a Live Mode which you can use to see data immediately for moisture, light, and temperature (fertilizer doesn't work with this mode), but you'll need to be patient for it to start interpreting what you're seeing.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

After the initial adjustment, Flower Power will chart data over time, and make recommendations on all four categories that it tracks. For instance, it might tell you that your plant doesn't have enough water or sunlight, but has plenty of fertilizer and is in comfortable temperature conditions. The app will then add anything you need to change to a convenient To Do list. Once you check things off, it'll read the new conditions and give you an updated recommendation 24 hours later.

Additionally, Flower Power gathers and stores all of the data between check-ins. Once you're up and running, you can move within range of the plant and pull up the app. The Flower Power will use your app to update the cloud-based database with all of the new information it gathered since you were last in range, and you'll then be able to see all four categories graphed over time on both your phone and on any internet capable device. Give it a couple of weeks, and it'll even start to make long-term recommendations about when you need to water and fertilize, and it'll update your To Do list on both your phone and browser with that information as well.


If you have a passion for gardening, and have run into a situation where a plant keeps wilting despite your best efforts and you're stumped, the Flower Power can come to your rescue thanks to its recommendation function.

The specific data will also be useful if you're a budding citizen scientist looking to study the conditions of your garden. Unfortunately, anyone simply looking to add convenience to plant care will be disappointed by the Parrot Flower Power.

To start, the Flower Power doesn't add that much convenience. The PlantLink, by Oso Technologies, uses a Zigbee radio signal to consistently send updates about your plant's moisture to the cloud, without any additional effort on your part. The Koubachi Wi-Fi Sensor functions similarly, and can communicate directly with the cloud as long as it's in range of your router. For the Parrot to get any info, you need to be within Bluetooth range of your sensor and update the information manually.

If, like me, you tend to kill plants with accidental negligence, this lack of automation will result in just as many garden-based fatalities; I won't be any more likely to remember to check on my plant with my phone in hand, than I would be to water it.

You'll also need to go back and forth from the app to your browser to get all of the information you want. You can manage and add plants, and also get updates via the app. However, the browser is the only way to check specific data points. You can see charts on the app, but if you want to know a specific moisture percentage at a specific time, the full Web page is the only way to do it.

This strange disconnect carries over to the recommendations as well. Parrot has a great plant database. It's the most functional that I've tested. It only has 6,000 entries compared to the 50,000 PlantLink boasts, but that 6,000 feels much more useful. The search software works well, and the accompanying pictures and information make it easy to not only find your plant but to learn about it. All of that information comes from Parrot's research in conjunction with Dutch university Wageningen UR, and is used to make those recommendations on how to care for your plant.

Specific data on where your plant is, but no indication of where it should be. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

Yet it keeps you in the dark about how it arrives at its recommendations, or how the data from your plant compares to the ideals it needs. Without this specificity, you're left to guess what exactly "Water Your Plant" means. How much water should you give it? The charts will tell you how much moisture it has in terms of a percent -- 0 percent is completely dry, 100 percent is soaking wet -- but the chart won't show you how much moisture your plant likes. The database will give you this info in broader terms, but how does the fact that your plant likes two drops (out of a possible five) translate to soil moisture percentage? Parrot never helps you take that leap. The database must talk to the data to create the recommendations it gives you, but you're certainly not privy to the conversation.

Live Mode would be a great way to make sure you're giving your plant exactly the right amount of water or sun. It's a feature of the app that shows a moving graph with current conditions, and it's quite cool to watch the soil moisture increase instantly as you pour more and more water into the soil by your plant. Again, though, without knowing what percentage to aim for, this feature is much less useful than it could be.

Your To Do list, though handy and simple, won't even automatically update after you've completed a task. Live Mode is clearly picking up the extra water you're giving your plant, but "water" remains on your list unchecked. You'll have to mark it completed yourself, and only then will the Flower Power get back to work and check on updated recommendations.

These, like the initial recommendations, will take about 24 hours to populate. This is much slower than the turnaround for PlantLink, and you'll need to head back out to your plant and get in Bluetooth range to get the update. Occasionally, the initial time window had passed, I checked on the plant, and it still needed a couple more hours. Walking back inside and back out again after another waiting period probably brought me some much needed exercise, but I wouldn't call it a convenience.


From the extensive and informative plant database to the very specific charts it compiles, to the number of facets it measures and the Live Mode, Flower Power is loaded with features. But because those features don't talk to each other in any kind of understandable fashion, many of them are much less useful than they could be.

Flower Power is even compatible with IFTTT , a website which allows you to connect smart devices to the Internet of Things and even have them communicate with each other. For Flower Power, this means you can establish triggers for any of the four parameters measured by the device, and IFTTT can send you push notifications or alerts. The possibilities of IFTTT compatibility are nearly infinite. For example, you can teach IFTTT to turn your lights on or off if the light level alert for your plant triggers. You'd need the light to be attached to another smart device like a WeMo Switch or a SmartThings hub , but it's possible.

My Flower Power recipe on IFTTT Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

Unfortunately, like the rest of Flower Power's features, this IFTTT compatibility ends up being much cooler in theory than in practice because of its Bluetooth-restricted connectivity. To get an alert based on current readings from your plant, you'll need to be close to your plant with the app open. It'll update, and you'll see the most current charts on the app you have open anyway so it can do so. Then, you'll get your push notification...with info you just saw.

Once, I received a text after the 24-hour waiting period for recommendations. It told me my plant needed more light. This was the first time Flower Power showed me its potential as a connected device. I was getting an alert based on newly processed information I had gathered yesterday; the IFTTT compatibility meant something! However, even this was based on day-old information, and I still had to go to the plant to get the updated readings and see the status of the other parameters. This was the only alert I ever received that wasn't in immediate proximity to checking my plant. I did everything I could to cross the alert thresholds in the other categories -- I let the pot dry out for days, I drenched it, I put it in the fridge -- and nothing else ever came.

All told, Flower Power's limited and inconsistent communication features means it is an unreliable garden sentinel. It knows when there is trouble, but it has no way to reach out and tell you. It gives your plant a voice, but limits that voice to a whisper.


Thankfully that whisper is accurate. The Parrot Flower Power doesn't function well as a connected plant sensor, but it's adequate as a diligent gatherer of data.

We placed the Flower Power in a pot with a ponytail palm and checked its readings over the course of a month against those from a separate calibrated meter. Parrot's measurements for soil moisture, ambient temperature, and ambient light were all within the expected margin of error.

For soil moisture, ambient temperature, and ambient light, the Parrot Flower Power does a great job of reliably collecting data. Its measurements for fertilizer disappoint.

Screenshot by Jared Hannah/CNET

Parrot's device nailed the soil moisture test. Similar to PlantLink's performance, it started out with a small variance that decreased over the course of the month. The small variance is to be expected at first, since the Flower Power and calibrated meter weren't in the exact same spot and the soil was porous. The fact that the reading grew closer and closer to the one from the VG-200 over time, as the soil settled, is a great sign, and on par with PlantLink. The Flower Power even bests the more expensive Koubachi on this test.

Screenshot by Jared Hannah/CNET

The ambient temperature and ambient light tests were similarly successful. In both cases, the Flower Power was slow to react to spikes, but always within an acceptable range of error.

Screenshot by Jared Hannah/CNET

Screenshot by Jared Hannah/CNET

The fertilizer test was not as accurate. Flower Power tracks the amount of fertilizer in the soil by measuring electrical connectivity. Since moisture is a big factor in conductivity, the meter will only take readings shortly after you've watered your plant. On the positive side, this allows the system to avoid overreacting to drops in conductivity due to decreasing moisture levels. Flower Power won't tell you to fertilize every time you need to water; that would be disastrous. This is also why fertilizer isn't available for Live Mode. The downside is this results in slow, stagnant readings that seem more like guesses.

Screenshot by Jared Hannah/CNET

In the chart above, we fertilized and watered on the second day, and you can see the spike created by these actions above. The Flower Power didn't react to the change until after the weekend passed, and only then by jumping to a seemingly random high point. It's guessing. Again, if you looked at the chart and thought you needed to fertilize again when it got back to it's initial point, you'd be giving it more fertilizer two days later and would be badly overdoing it for almost any plant. Thus, Parrot's device is smart to only take readings at certain times, but it's fertilizer readings are still an unreliable measurement.


Because of its mostly accurate readings, and helpful database, the Parrot Flower Power serves a few functions well. Its recommendations for care are broad, but if you're trying to figure out how to help a suffering plant, "move to a sunnier spot" might be exactly what you need to hear. It's Bluetooth range is also comparatively small, but will serve you just fine if you have a compatible Apple device and are checking on plants in adjacent rooms of your home. Finally, it stores and charts data long term, providing a valuable service to those looking to study changes in their garden over time.

Nevertheless, it lacks automation and specificity. If, like me, you have a black thumb and need help keeping plants alive, Oso Technologies' PlantLink will serve you much better. If you need more advanced monitoring for long-term care, it might be worth the extra money for the $130 Koubachi sensor. Parrot's Flower Power has trouble with communication, and thus, doesn't quite stack up to these other connected garden sensors.


Parrot Flower Power

Score Breakdown

Features 5Usability 3.5Design 8Performance 7.5