Have a techy Christmas: Gadget gift ideas for the houseplant lovers in your life

PHOTO: Vincross

Having plants around your home will make your life better. That’s just facts, chief — check the science

In all seriousness, plants do make people happy in a number of ways. They’re therapeutic, they add some natural life to sterile environments, they help clean indoor air, and they increase productivity

So it should be no surprise then that millennials are having a leafy love affair with houseplants, with the eco-minded generation becoming obsessed with being plant parents. You can sorta blame it on social media, I suppose, considering that Instagram-ready flora like peace lilies, rubber plants, micro cacti and fiddle-leaf figs are all the rage right now. 

With the houseplant market literally blooming right now, the ecosystem of smart tools for gardening has been sprouting steadily to keep up with the budding interest in horticulture. We’ve pretty much killed other industries (milk, straws, diamonds, department stores), but we’ll be damned if we’re gonna let our Zanzibar Gems die. 

Here are some tech for the green thumbs in your life. 


Hexa 

More of an expensive novelty than anything else, this autonomous little darling by robotics company Vincross turns the passive houseplant into something that moves around on its own accord to chase the sunlight. Plus, it looks like a Half-Life Headcrab, and that's awesome in its own right. 

Originally, the Hexa was meant to be a multi-purpose, all-terrain robot that can walk and climb around and take videos or photos if you want it to. Inventor Tianqi Sun, however, saw its potential in helping flower pots grow actual legs, and so he programmed a bot to be the guardian of the plant sitting on its head. It spins around to let sunshine hit all sides; it looks for shady areas to cool down; it stamps its foot when the plant needs watering. You can buy the robot itself for $1,082 on the Vincross website, but the programming and actual fitting of a houseplant will be on you to figure out. 

The Smart Garden 9

For those who don’t have space for a garden plot (aka most of us living in HDB apartments), having a small planter indoors is good enough. But what if that planter can actually be kinda self-sufficient enough to grow lettuce, basil, tomatoes and more that you can harvest and eat?

Enter the Smart Garden 9 ($299 at Tangs), a fuss-free self-growing garden that simply requires you to insert seed pods in the contraption, fill up the reservoir with water, and plug it into an outlet. The electronic smart pot will control all the things the plants need, including the amount of water, fertiliser, and light via built-in sensors. Zero effort for maximum harvest and the ability to flex to colleagues that you grew your salad. 

Soil tester

PHOTO: Lazada

One of the more common mistakes that amateur gardeners make is watering their plants too much, which is just as deadly for the flora as when it doesn’t get enough water. There’s also the tricky part about knowing the optimal level of fertilisers to use in the soil — too much of it can affect the soil’s acidity. 

Thus the importance of investing in a soil tester, which can measure things like soil moisture, temperature, and pH values. And they’re dirt cheap too, with a digital version going for $15.50 on Lazada

Sky Planter

PHOTO: Boskke 

Using the sorcery of physics and locking mechanisms, the Sky Planter ($32 via Easi-grow) lets you grow plants upside down, saving precious floor space and making them surreal, natural ornaments hanging from the ceiling. 

The mechanics of the special planter make it efficient for growing, too, since water feeds the plant’s roots directly with no water loss from evaporation or drainage. They’re totally safe to be hung indoors, so you can have dozens of plants sprouting near your house's lighting. 

Lua

Combine the world of Tamagotchis and houseplants and you get Lua, a smart pot that gives your flora some feelings. Your plants won’t get sentient though — Lua will simply display animated emotions based on what the plant needs, whether it's sunlight, water, warmth, shade or even if the roots are sick. 

So yes, your plant will essentially communicate with you thanks to the magic of technology. The bummer bit is that it’s still being crowdfunded on Indiegogo (they go for $149 each) and will only start shipping in March 2020. 

Self-watering system

PHOTO: Lazada

This one’s for the gardeners who aren’t messing around. An automatic drip irrigation kit ($25.99 on Lazada) will water an entire assembly of plants and all you need to do is hook it up to a big jug of water. The low-powered motor will automatically water your plants for you according to a programmed schedule, meaning you don’t even have to do anything else except monitor how your greenery is growing. 

It’s particularly useful if you’re gone for a vacation or just don’t spend that much time at home — the system does all the watering by itself as long as there’s water available to suck up. 

ilyas@asiaone.com