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Poems for Plants

Role: UX Designer

6 weeks (2020)


→ 3 designers


→ Arduino

→ Edge Impulse

Poems for Plants is a voice-controlled watering device for house plants that responds to poetry. 


This project was inspired by the slow process of plants and explores how to reflect this through slow and gentle interaction using technology to create a meaningful experience rather than simply replace the task of watering plants.

Project goal and outcome

Poems for Plants aims to enhance the relationship between humans and their houseplants over time by sharing a meaningful watering experience together. 


The experience of Poems for Plants allowed the human participants to reflect upon the perspective of their houseplants and invoked a sense of curiosity of the plant’s experience and growth. The experience allowed the human participants to empathise with the houseplant and create a new bond which can develop over time as the plant slowly grows. 

Why Poems? Why Plants?

This project aims to combine these benefits of plants and poetry to create a meaningful experience experience that benefits both human and plant.


🪴 Plants can increase the overall wellness in people by reducing stress and anxiety and increases the feeling of presence by encouraging people to slow down and focus. 

📚 Reading poetry encourages people to slow down and provides a space for self-reflection. The sound of a person's voice can positively affect plants and help them grow.

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Users' reflections on their experience of Poems for Plants:
“It made the experience more purposeful because I was reading for the plant as well. I empathised with the plant while reading the words of the poem. It felt like a bond creation. ”
“I was more curious than usual when using Poems for Plants, to check if leaves were more shinny or perked up.” 
​​“For the person you see the difference after a few days, but not yet for the plant.. It would get more intimate for the human and plant if it was used for a longer time.”
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Design process

01 Research and Ideation

  • Mapping the existing relationship between people and houseplants

  • Sketching and bodystorming ideas of new forms of people-plant interactions

02 Prototyping 

Prototyping ideas and experimenting with Arduino, voice recognition technology and plant watering methods.

03 Experience Evaluation 

Testing and evaluating the experience of using Poems for Plants for both the person and the plant.


💧 Watering system

Poems for Plants uses the principle of capillary (the movement of water through a porous material against the force of gravity) to water the plant. We tested it using a water vessel, microfibre cloth and a range of plant types to find out how long the watering process took and how much water was needed for the different plants.


🔌 Water pump

We also experimented with electronics including a soil moisture sensor, peristaltic pump and an Arduino Sense BLE in order to calculate how much water the plant needs and programme a gentle flow of water to be released.


🗣 Voice recognition 

We experimented with training with Edge Impulse (machine learning platform), to learn a selection of words from poems by Emily Dickinson in order to find out which words the platform was most responsive in order to activate the pump. 

User testing

An lo-fi experience prototype was tested by a group of participants focusing on the experience of reading poetry to houseplants as a watering ritual to evaluate how the human related to the plant over time. ​


A selection of poems by Emily Dickinson were chosen for the experience which explored the theme of our relationship with nature. The participants recorded their reflections after each watering ritual to evaluate their experience over time. After the the prototype testing, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants to evaluate their experience and capture insights.

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The watering process

Step 01

The human asks the plant which poem it would like to be read by placing the moisture sensor in the plant's soil. The moisture sensor reads how the level of moisture in the soil. 

Step 02

The moisture sensor sends the value to the Arduino which activates the pump to release a certain number of bubbles depending on how much water the plant needs. The number of bubbles indicates which poem should be read from the book. Each poem triggers a different amount of water to be released.

Step 03

The person reads the chosen poem to the plant to start the watering process. The Arduino uses trained voice recognition software to respond to certain words from the poem and activate the pump. The pump slowly releases water through a tube to the base of the plant

Step 04

The fabric base of the plant soaks up the water visualising the watering process as the material becomes wet. The plant uses capillary action to bring water up the roots and stems to the rest of the plant.

Step 05

Once enough water has reached the plant's soil, the soil moisture sensor activates the pump to release a bubble into the water vessel. This signals to the person that the water process is complete.

The set-up
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