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The best indoor gardens: Smart grow rigs with built-in tech and sensors

ZDNET experts tried and tested the best indoor gardens that fit both tiny and bigger homes. They're smart with built-in tech and sensors that help make growing herbs and vegetables indoors easier.
Written by Sherin Shibu, Contributor and  Allison Murray, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Amy Lieu
Gardyn Home Kit | Best indoor garden overall
gardyn-review-1
Gardyn Home Kit
Best indoor garden overall
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Ingarden | Best indoor garden for microgreens
A smart indoor garden with three types of plants growing out of it
Ingarden
Best indoor garden for microgreens
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iDOO Hydroponics Growing System | Best budget indoor garden
A black smart garden with lots of greenery growing out of it sitting on a countertop
iDOO Hydroponics Growing System
Best budget indoor garden
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Aerogarden Harvest Elite | Best customizable indoor garden
An indoor smart garden on a small table with green plants growing out of it and an overhead light on top of it
Aerogarden Harvest Elite
Best customizable indoor garden
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Click & Grow indoor smart garden 3 | Best indoor garden for beginners
A white indoor garden setup with plant pods in front of it
Click & Grow indoor smart garden 3
Best indoor garden for beginners
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It's difficult growing food indoors. Gardens require costly maintenance and take up precious square footage in a tiny home or an apartment or any other living space.

Indoor smart gardens do most of the work for you when it comes to growing herbs and vegetables, including reminding you to water and adjusting the lights to the appropriate setting. 

We've rounded up the best indoor smart gardens that include features like vacation mode, autonomous watering, customizable seed pods, and more to get your garden growing in no time. 

Also: Best plant subscription box

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • AI tech with cameras and sensors
  • One-year warranty
  • Accompanying app
Cons
  • Most expensive option
  • Requires Wi-Fi
More Details

Features: Up to 30 plants | Free accompanying app | 6-gallon water tank

This is the vertical garden kit that Nichols chose for his tiny home, and with good reason. The system was designed from the ground up to change indoor smart gardening. Instead of using timers to regulate light and water cycles, the Gardyn Home Kit uses a more powerful, precise system: built-in cameras that keep track of plant growth and create the best maintenance schedule for your garden. 

Review: I tried a massive, indoor smart garden in my tiny home and didn't regret it

The kit comes with an artificial intelligence-based assistant app that changes the game. Gardyn can grow up to 30 plants simultaneously using integrated LED lighting, sensors, and a six-gallon water reservoir that is fully autonomous for weeks without added water. The free app lets you see more details about your plants, including when a crop is ready to be harvested or your plants' temperature, humidity, and water levels.

This indoor smart garden also has a vacation mode to preserve your plants when you are away, and you can even remotely check in on them in the app through Gardyn's embedded vision system. Gardyn lets you grow greens, herbs, fruits, veggies, and flowers, all with minimal effort on your end since the AI tech takes care of your plants for you.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Sleek colors like mint and rose
  • No soil involved
  • Certified organic plants
Cons
  • Customers say sprouts grow slightly slower than traditional methods
  • Only grows microgreens
More Details

Features: 3 plants at a time | Autonomous watering | USDA-certified organic greens 

If you're strictly interested in the world of microgreens, the Ingarden is a great indoor smart garden option that also looks super sleek in your kitchen. This indoor smart garden uses autonomous watering complete with a ventilation system and wicking structure so you can easily grow microgreens. Simply place the included pads onto the growing beds, pour water over them, hold the light timer at the top for three seconds, and get fresh microgreens about a week later.

Ingarden offers various USDA-certified organic superfood microgreens such as arugula, cress, radish, etc. You can grow up to three pads of microgreens at a time.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Automatic height adjustment
  • Low-cost option
  • Different water and light modes
Cons
  • Light modes can be finicky
  • Very bright light, so don't put it near where you sleep
More Details

Features: 7 plant pods | 5-liter water tank | 24W LED lights

Those looking to get into indoor smart gardens but don't want to spend a lot should consider the iDOO Hydroponics Growing System. It's the cheapest option on this list, but it still has seven plant pods so that you can harvest many different plants at once.

Some of its features include 24W LED lights that simulate the sunlight spectrum, two water pump modes and a five-liter water tank, and three light modes depending on the stage of your plants' growth. It also has an adjustable light height so the light moves with your plants as they grow taller.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Can plant any seeds you want
  • Quiet water pump
  • Vacation mode setting
Cons
  • Expensive seed kits
  • Water needs to be refilled fairly often
More Details

Features: 6 plant spaces | Automatic reminders | Adjustable arm lamp

Perhaps one of the most recognizable brands in the indoor smart garden space, Aerogarden has plenty of smart garden planters to begin your indoor smart garden. The Harvest Elite is a compact option that still allows six plants to grow. As your plants grow, its extendable lap arm gets up to 12 inches tall to allow more room.

The planter itself has automatic reminders for water and food, so you never have to guess when your plants need something. A big plus about Aerogarden is its Grow Anything Kits that allow you to put any seed you want into its seed pod, meaning you get more options with what you grow rather than only a specific selection of seeds to choose from.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Compact
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Completely silent
Cons
  • Fill indicator could be better
  • Only three plant pod spaces
More Details

Features: 3 plant spaces | Automatic lighting cycle | Smart Soil pods 

The Click & Grow indoor smart garden 3 is your best bet if you have a small space to work with. At 9 x 4.9 x 12.5 inches, it's the most compact option on our list but still holds three plants of your choosing. You can choose from more than 50 plant refill capsules, including peppers, chives, catnip, yellow tomatoes, and more. Click & Grow's plants contain a patented nano-material called Smart Soil that automatically releases oxygen and water to your plants and is inspired by NASA technology.

The device's lamp has a 16 hours on/8 hours off cycle to optimize your plants' growth. In addition, its water float indicator will let you know when it's time to refill the tank. And, since there is no water pump, the Click & Grow is completely silent.

What is the best indoor smart garden?

The Gardyn Home Kit is our top pick, but here is your decision tree

To narrow down which of these indoor smart gardens is right for you, think about your physical space limitations and your expertise level in growing plants. For example, the Gardyn indoor smart garden saves space since it grows upwards, but its high-tech features are geared more toward people who have grown herbs and veggies before and who know the basics.

However, for true gardening beginners, an indoor smart garden like the Click & Grow or the Ingarden are great options since they are both easy to use and only hold three plants, so you don't have a lot of different crops to worry about at once.

Quick comparisonPriceNumber of plantsDimensions (L x W x H)
Gardyn Home Kit$5003024 x 12 x 60 inches
Ingarden$160315.35 x 5.9 x 7.88 inches
iDOO Hydroponics Growing System$55713.7 x 5.5 x 14.6 inches
Aerogarden Harvest Elite$180610.5 x 6.25 x 17.4 inches
Click & Grow indoor smart garden 3$7539 x 4.9 x 12.5 inches

Which indoor garden is right for you?

It really depends on your expert level of gardening, what type of plant and how much you'd like to grow, how much space you have for an indoor smart garden, and what price you're willing to spend.

Choose this indoor garden...

If you want...

Gardyn Home Kit

The best overall option that uses a free AI-based assistant app to help you track the growth of up to 30 plants simultaneously. It also has built-in cameras that link to vacation mode if you're ever away.

Ingarden

To grow microgreens in a super sleek indoor smart garden that fits perfectly on your kitchen countertop. You can get fresh microgreens as quickly as a week after planting.

iDOO Hydroponics Growing System

A budget-friendly indoor smart garden that still has plenty of options for you to try, with space for seven plant pods. It comes with 24W LED lights that simulate sunlight and are placed on an adjustable height post.

Aerogarden Harvest Elite

To fully customize the seeds you plant. You can put any seed you want into its seed pod and you get automatic reminders for water and food so your plants thrive.

Click & Grow indoor smart garden 3

An indoor smart garden for beginners that is completely silent. It has a nano-material called Smart Soil that automatically releases oxygen and water to your plants. 

How did we choose these indoor gardens?

To compile this list, we examined top performers in the indoor smart garden space. We chose indoor smart gardens with essential features like built-in lighting and watering indicators. Plus, these smart gardens are easy to set up with instructions. We paid attention to customer reviews -- both good and bad -- to make our final decisions. If a ZDNET contributor had tested a product and written a review, we looked at that first to make sure that we were examining the possible downsides to these products through a user-driven lens. 

What are indoor smart gardens and how do they work?

These indoor smart gardens are considered "smart" because they have built-in tech and sensors that automatically turn on/off lighting, adjust the height as your plants grow taller, and notify you when to refill the water tank. In addition, indoor smart gardens take the guesswork out of growing your own herbs and vegetables since all you have to do is plant the seeds, and the device will let you know if something needs tending.

Most indoor smart gardens have companion apps that provide tips on caring for certain plants, allow you to turn on vacation mode, and track your plants' growth in real-time. Some indoor smart gardens have standout features, like the app on the Gardyn kit. These indoor smart gardens work in many different spaces and offer versatility in what they can grow, and the environments in which they can be placed.

What can you grow in an indoor smart garden?

Indoor smart gardens allow you to grow various plants inside your home or apartment. For example, you can grow herbs like basil, thyme, cilantro, lavender, and fruits and veggies like tomatoes and peppers. Each indoor smart garden brand usually sells refillable plant pods you can purchase with different types of herbs, vegetables, or flowers, but some also offer customizable pods to put whatever kind of seed you want into the pods.

Are there alternative indoor gardens to consider?

While all these indoor smart gardens are great options, here are a few others to consider looking into: 

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