Plant Friends

Plant Friends is a wireless plant environmental monitor system. It uses the Raspberry Pi and the Moteino and comes with an Android app!

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What is Plant Friends?

Plant Friends is a plant environmental monitor system. It monitors the soil moisture, air temperature, and air humidity of your indoor plant(s) and will alert you via email and SMS when your plants are thirsty. The system is battery operated, wireless, Arduino and Raspberry Pi based and comes with an Android app. The app enables you to look at the real-time and historical data (temperature, humidity, soil moisture) on your phone.

Plant Friends is based on my original proof-of-concept project which you can see here:

Follow me and I'll show you how you can build your own Plant Friends system! Beginners welcome!

This is what finished system looks like.

The Sensor Node

The Base Station

The App

How does it work?

The (many) sensor nodes consists of a Moteino (an Arduino clone with an RF transceiver), a soil moisture sensor, a humidity sensor, temperature sensor and a battery meter. Once the sensor node collects the sensor readings, it transmits the data via the transceiver over the 915mhz ISM band to the base station.

The base station houses another Moteino, which acts as a gateway to recieve the RF signals, and a Raspberry Pi where the data is logged into a MySQL database and serves the data to the Plant Friends mobile app. The Plant Friends app is an Android app, written in Processing, that displays the senor node data in a pretty way. :)

I love plants! Lets do this!

AWESOME! This tutorial is aimed at users slightly above the beginner level. I'll assume you have some basic experience with Arduino hardware and Arduino IDE (like making LEDs blink, installing libraries, etc.), basic knowledge of the Raspberry Pi (install Raspbian OS, etc.), and you know how to handle a soldering iron!

Before I send you off on a shopping spree, lets outline some goals for the system as it will dictate how the system operates. For my Plant Friends system, I wanted the following things:

1. Remind me to water my plants. Alert me via email and/or SMS.

2. Be able to monitor multiple plants. I have plants in different rooms in my home so I'd like to be able to monitor all of them at once.

3. I like to shuffle my plants around so the system needs to move freely. This means minimal wires and reasonable size. To do that, the system needs to run on batteries which leads to my next point.

4. The system needs to be low power. I want the system to run on a set of batteries as long as possible so I don't have change them out often. Because, lazy. I feel 4 – 6 months between each battery swap is reasonable.

5. Android app. Because even bathroom scales have one nowadays. I'm kind of a stats junkie so being able to look at the data from my phone is a plus.

7. Low maintenance! Again, lazy.

8. Some sort of enclosure to organize and protect the electronics.

  • 1 × Plant Friends bamboo enclosures. I designed these enclosures! They are constructed out of laser cut bamboo. I designed it so all the pieces snap together and does not require any glue. The sensor node enclosure houses the Moteino, the sensors and the batteries. The base station enclosure houses the Raspberry Pi and gateway Moteino. Buy it here:
  • 2 × Moteino with RF Transceiver I am using an earlier version of Moteino with the RFM12B - 915mhz transceiver. You'll need at least two of these for Plant Friends. One will be the sensor node, the other will reside with the Pi which will act as a gateway. If you want to make more sensor nodes, buy more.
  • 1 × Protoboard 3cm x 7cm I am using 3cm x 7cm green protoboards that I got off of eBay for the sensor nodes. They are surprisingly good quality and work very well. The components that make up the sensor node, including the Moteino, will sit on this board.
  • 1 × Soil Probe These This is just a PCB with exposed traces. You can use two nails if you wish but getting this will simplify things. Some of them come with an opamp circuit and seems to be cheaper than getting just the probes alone. We don't need that part for Plant Friends but you can save it for another project. WARNING: These probes might contain LEAD. If you are growing food, I suggest you use nails as the probe. I won't be covering that method in this article, so Google is your friend! Price: $1-2.
  • 1 × Raspberry Pi Model B We are going to use a USB WiFi adapter for this project so either model A or B will work fine. I recommend the B because it has more RAM and the Ethernet port will give you some flexibility.

View all 15 components

  • Sensor Node Custom PCB

    dickson08/05/2014 at 02:37 0 comments

    I am about to deploy a bunch of sensor nodes for my plants (sunflowers, basil, mint etc). The problem is, making the sensor nodes on protoboard becomes a chore. To ease the process, I designed a custom PCB.

    This is what it looks like fully assembled. The Moteino sits on the female headers.

    The back side of the board.

    The layout follows what I came up with on the protoboard version already. That means it fits into the sensor node enclosures perfectly. I stuck with using through hole parts because it is easy to solder. This took me less than 5 min to put together.

    I have a couple of these boards for sale. You can grab them at my shop:

  • Soil Probe Update

    dickson08/05/2014 at 01:35 0 comments

    About the soil probes on ebay, I don't know if they use the lead-free tin type or the leaded type for the finishing hence in my article I mentioned they 'might' contain lead. And frankly, I don't really trust the eBay sellers to provide me with correct information so for everybody's safety sake I had to mention that it might contain lead. Also, after 6 months of use, those eBay probes started to corrode.

    Since I want to use Plant Friends for my basil plants as well, I need a probe that is lead free. I was thinking of using two nails as the probe but that is not good against corrosion. So, I designed my own.

    This probe is gold plated which will withstand corrosion much better than the eBay ones. I also made it longer (82mm / 3.25 inch) so it can better gauge the moisture when using larger/deeper planting pots. I tested these already and they work extremely well.

    Here is a side by side comparison of my custom probe and the eBay version. You can see the eBay probe looks pretty bad after 6 months of use.

    I still have a few of these custom probes and you can pick them up from my shop:

    Shipping internationally. ;)

  • Plant Friends Admin Interface

    dickson07/26/2014 at 03:13 0 comments

    Thanks to Mário Santos (gadelhas) over on GitHub for rewriting the Plant Friends admin interface. 1000x better than what I had. Definitely a nice surprise!

  • Enclosures Update!

    dickson07/25/2014 at 09:52 0 comments

    I've been getting questions on how to obtain my Plant Friends MK II enclosures. I've added a couple more option to make them more accessible:

    1. Get the pre-cut ones from my shop. These come in flat sheets and you assemble them:

    2. If you have access to a laser cutter, you can buy my templates at my Ponoko shop. These are already laid out into sheets ready to cut:

    3. If you want to modify, remix and come up with your own version based on my designs, you can grab them on my GitHub:

    Thank you and have fun!

  • First

    dickson07/21/2014 at 01:22 0 comments

    This is an ongoing project for me (probrably in perpetuality lol) so I'll update and improve on it as time progress. Some stuff is still really rough, mainly the web interface to add sensor nodes into the database. The app looks nice but missing some basic functionality like scrolling through the list of nodes (lol) and the ability to edit sensor node information. 

    The main python script that runs on the Pi and the sensor node / gateway Moteino code all works great and the whole system is functional.

    I already wrote a comprehensive how-to tutorial instructable on my website:

    I have a few things planned for Plant Friends and I'll post updates here!

    Stuff in the pipeline:

    1. 3v/5v battery booster: have the system to power 5v sensors if needed.

    2. solar power: sensor nodes running on solar power

    3. Android app improvements: add features to the app like adding nodes, edit information and other fun stuff.

    Questions, comments, suggestions welcome!

View all 5 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1

    I wrote an extensive how-to-tutorial-instructable so beginners can have a stab at building a Plant Friends system of their own. I commented almost every line of code so there is a lot of information on how the system works.

    The how-to tutorial instructable on my website:

View all instructions

Enjoy this project?



Atrian Wagner wrote 01/12/2022 at 18:58 point

The link on the side to the instructable is broken. Here is the direct link:
I saw the bamboo enclosures are out of stock. Are they still being made?

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Ben Nortier wrote 02/19/2015 at 09:16 point

Wow, this is beautiful!

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Eric K wrote 07/24/2014 at 16:00 point
Saw this project over on and I have to say this is awesome. The enclosures are great too, very good wife approval factor there.

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dickson wrote 07/24/2014 at 22:01 point
Thank you Eric! You are the 5th person to mention Plant Friends could have the potential to enhance their relationship with their spouse / significant other. So awesome. :)

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jeromekelty wrote 07/22/2014 at 14:11 point
Awesome project! Going to share this today with a few of my friends. :)

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dickson wrote 07/22/2014 at 21:59 point
Thank you!

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Łukasz Przeniosło wrote 07/21/2014 at 09:45 point
This is great! An usefull peace of hardware that looks like a cute critter. Even ones gf would be please by this solution :D. Is it possible for you to sell some cases?

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dickson wrote 07/21/2014 at 22:07 point
Thank you bremenpl! Yes I sell my bamboo cases here:

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David Cook wrote 07/21/2014 at 01:56 point
Very nice user interface!

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dickson wrote 07/21/2014 at 02:25 point
Thank you!

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dickson wrote 07/21/2014 at 02:27 point
And thank you again for the skull :)

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