Our Favorite Gadgets for Plant Parents

How was it that I, a professional gardener, couldn’t keep her houseplants alive? There, in the mirror’s reflection, my peace lily sagged, my begonia browned, my African violets pouted while bugs circled their leaves like vultures. Despite living by a bright window in a warm room, my houseplants resented me. I was an absent plant mom, never home, too busy trimming and tidying more important, outside-world plants to give my own kids enough attention. And it showed.

But I wasn’t going to give up my day job, or the home garden I loved puttering in on weekends. “If only I had a houseplant nanny,” I told my husband. “Like someone who knows a bit about horticulture to come by and care for my indoor plants.” He crinkled his eyebrows. “Aren’t you the plant nanny?”

He was right. It was a touch absurd to hire someone to do the very thing I knew how to do best. Then again, with a job, three kids, four pets, and a life in general, I had little time to water, remember when I’d watered, kill bug eggs with alcohol, figure out lighting problems, and on and on. Just thinking about it overwhelmed me. Ten more things for me to do. Well, maybe four, but hey, it felt like ten.

Finally, after months of anxiety-inducing, half-assed houseplant care, I figured out a key piece of the puzzle. I didn’t need a human plant nanny. I needed an artificial one. So I started experimenting with tech for houseplant maintenance. To say the least, life changed. For the way better.

After a few false starts, I discovered six things that function as a kind of houseplant nanny kit. They now keep my plants not only alive, but healthy and happy. That, of course, means I’m healthy and happy too.

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What Did I Just Buy?

Photograph: Johannes Mann/Getty Images

Let’s say you were at the grocery store, saw an incredibly cool plant, lost your mind, and paid $50, then brought it home. Great, but what now? A plant identification app can help. You simply take a photo, upload it, and the app gives you its botanical and common names. Why is knowing so important? Because if you know where your plant grows in the wild, you’ll know how to keep it happy at home. You’ll provide the right light, water, soil, and food. You are the god of earth and weather in an indoor living space, so plan accordingly.

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