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Parrot Flower Power
“If trees could scream,” goes one of my favorite Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey, “would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time for no good reason.” If my plants could ask me for water or food, would I be so cavalier about letting them die a slow death from neglect? No, of course not—I’m lazy, not heartless.
Parrot’s Flower Power doesn’t scream at you, but it does monitor your plants and helpfully push notifications to your iPhone if they need more (or less) sunshine, water, and fertilizer. It could be a game-changer for both seriously green-thumbed gardeners and completely ignorant novices like me.
Go go gadget green thumb
The Flower Power device is cutely shaped like a twig, and it comes in three colors so you can easily tell them apart if you get more than one. The bottom half of the waterproof gadget is two metal prongs that you push into the soil next to the plant you want to track. That’s how Flower Power tracks the temperature and moisture level in the soil. To determine if your plant needs fertilizer, the Flower Power measures the soil’s electrical conductivity, or how many ions (which are found in fertilizer) are in the dirt. Sensors at the top of the Flower Power measure the temperature of the air as well as how much light your plant is getting.
But this high tech gizmo comes with zero learning curve: You don’t have to do anything with the hardware itself except to insert a single AAA battery, activate the device with the Flower Power app on your iPhone, and stick it in the ground with your plant, indoors or out, potted plant or God's green earth.
The powerful, flower-full app
The free Flower Power app is iOS only for now, since the device uses Bluetooth LE. Developed with botanists, it’s got a database of more than 7,000 plants, so all you do is find your specific plant and tell Flower Power to monitor it. The database knows how hearty your plant is, and what its sweet spots are for light, temperature, water, and fertilizer. You can read all that too in the app's Plant DB tab, but if I were the kind of person who read about my plants, maybe I would know enough to keep them alive on my own.
One Flower Power device can monitor more than one plant, but Parrot recommends you monitor a single plant for at least a month before reassigning the Flower Power to a new plant. And I agree—trying to move the device between a couple plants was a pain in the butt, and after a month’s worth of data you should have a good handle on what your particular plant needs. The app can keep track of up to 256 Flower Power devices, way more than you’d ever buy since they’re $60 a pop.
The app lets you name each of your plants and snap a picture of them. Each plant then shows up in the My Garden tab, and you can tap one to get a screen of data. Tappable buttons for Water, Fertilizer, Temperature, and Light will be green when everything’s OK, yellow if that area needs attention, and red if it’s getting urgent. Tapping the buttons changes the graph below, where you can see up to a year of data in an easy-to-read chart. If your iPhone is within range of the Flower Power, you can even check out the Live view to see the graph update itself in real time. You can water the plant and watch the Water graph shoot up, for example, or move the plant to a sunnier spot and watch the Light graph change accordingly. It’s a neat effect—I’ve never felt so connected to a plant.
The To Do tab is the most important. Here you’ll see what your plant needs from you, in plain English. If the water level is high and not dropping quickly enough, you’ll be advised to check your plant’s drainage. If the soil needs fertilizer, you’ll be told. If the temperature is too high or low for your particular plant, the app will recommend you move it. Orange messages mean “get to it when you get to it,” and red messages are a little more do-or-die. You can check off to-dos once they’re addressed, and they won’t pop up again until the data suggests they’re needed. It’s pretty brilliant—getting a push notification from a plant made me smile every time.
Helping serial plant killers end their murderous ways is only the most obvious use for Flower Power—browsing through the database is a great way to decide what to plant as well. You can filter the thousands of plants by criteria like size, shape, indoor/outdoor, edible, annual versus biennial or perennial, and the color of leaves and flowers. So if you had a corner of your garden that you hope to fill with a spreading perennial with pink blossoms that bloom in the fall, the database might suggest “double spreading petunia,” and you can use your Flower Power to monitor the soil that spot as if a petunia lived there already. If the data suggests the spot is too cold or too sunny for that plant, you’ll know before you plunk down cash at the nursery.
So even though $60 seems a little expensive, Flower Power can save you money in the long run. Now that I know the best spot for my basil plant and how often to water it, I can stop buying bunches of basil at the supermarket—or purchasing another destined-for-death plant every time I want to make pesto. Plus there's just something fun about adding your purely organic plant friends to the Internet of Things—it’s about time the plants had a voice.
Parrot Flower Power
If you serially kill your plants, this will help you break the cycle. And if you've already got a green thumb, Flower Power will give you all the nerdy data your heart could desire about your photosynthetic friends.
- Transmits data in the background whenever your phone is in range.
- App is fun to use with plain-English recommendations and forecasts.
- Tricky to monitor more than one plant, but buying multiple devices gets expensive.