How Programmable Planters Work

The Computerized Flower Pot

Run a Google search for computerized or programmable planters, and you'll mostly see results pointing to two things: industrial farming equipment, and the Click and Grow. It's not a booming category, and all sorts of blogs picked up on the Estonia-developed Click and Grow for being something unusual when it was introduced in 2010. The device itself looks pretty unassuming. It's a small, square flower pot with a flat, removable lid. The interior of the plastic pot is actually mostly a hollow water reserve meant to hold a liter of water. The pot will slowly draw on that water to keep plants hydrated.

An LED light on the front of the Click and Grow pot will flash blue, green and red to provide simple status updates. Blue means the planter needs more water. Green means everything's groovy. Red indicates low batteries, which are the planter's final component. The Click and Grow couldn't be computerized without an energy source, and four AA batteries serve up power to electronics inside the planter that sense when the plant needs to be watered.

The Click and Grow's growing area sits in the center of the flower pot. It doesn't hold seeds in the normal sense -- you can't buy a packet of poppies at the store and plant them in the Click and Grow. Instead, the company's Web site sells plant "cartridges" that slot into the center of the Click and Grow pot. Seeds are already inside, and the cartridge never needs to be watered directly.

Click and Grow is more of a computerized planter than a programmable planter because, well, you don't really program anything! The planter takes care of everything, except occasionally adding more water. In that regard, it's similar to a more basic self-watering planter. The difference is in the electronics: Click and Grow uses sensors to nourish a plant, while traditional self-watering planters just have a water reservoir that is gradually absorbed through a porous inner pot. Of course, the pot is only half of the equation. Let's take a more detailed look at the plant cartridge that sits at the heart of the Click and Grow.