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Most plants just need a few things to grow—water, sunlight, and the right environment. Sounds easy, right? But without these essential things, plants have a very hard time growing. Each plant has its own watering preferences, from frequent drenching to light watering and everything in between.
Make the process easier and clearer by using a moisture meter to measure how much water your soil is getting. Some also provide extra features such as soil pH or nutrient monitoring to allow you to add amendments to the soil, as needed. Moisture meters can come with electronic and manual displays depending on your preference. Your moisture meter should be the right probe length for your area. A quality moisture meter will help keep your plants in great shape.
Here are the best moisture meters for your plants.
Best Overall: XLUX Soil Moisture Meter
Moisture Range: 1 to 10 | pH Range: N/A | Frequency: Intermittent use (up to one hour) | Update Rate: Continuous
No batteries required
Not suitable for packed/hard soil
No special features
For a reliable moisture meter that doesn’t require any upkeep or special care, this tool from XLUX is perfect. It measures the moisture in the soil continuously, displaying the results on a 1 to 10 analog scale. The needle moves from red (dry) through the green zone (moist) to blue (wet). You should only use it for an hour at a time to check soil rather than monitor it all of the time. This moisture meter doesn’t have any special features but is the best at doing exactly what it is designed to do: measure moisture.
The 7-inch probe is not made for extreme conditions, but this is rarely an issue since most plants that you will be monitoring aren’t made for extreme conditions, either. Just be sure to maintain a gentle touch when you first put it into the soil, or it may get damaged.
Best Budget: Dr. Meter Soil Moisture Meter 2-Pack
Moisture Range: 1 to 10 | pH Range: N/A | Frequency: Intermittent use | Update Rate: Continuous
No batteries required
No special features
For less money than some of the individually-sold moisture meters, this 2-pack from Dr. Meter is a budget-friendly garden tool that still provides a reliable reading. The water level is measured using a single probe and displayed from 1 to 10. The color-coding really helps make the entire process very simple and intuitive.
While it doesn’t include any special features and only measures moisture, if you're looking for something simple that will get the job done, this meter is for you. Bonus: Because it comes in a 2-pack, you can test multiple plants at once (or keep a spare to use in case one gets lost).
Best Smart: North Smart Plant Tracker
Moisture Range: 0 to 100 percent | pH Range: N/A | Frequency: Continuous | Update Rate: Continuous
Lots of data
Best for inside use only
If you love modern garden design, the North Smart Plant Tracker will be a welcome addition to your gardening tools. This ultra-sleek tracker can be used to monitor water, light, fertilizer, and temperature. It can even be customized for each plant type to give a target range for each reading as it grows. Simply connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone and use the company’s app to keep track of your plant’s stats. You can track them over time and even look at trends as well as recommended changes.
Because it includes smart technology, this is not a great option for outdoor use, although it can be used outside if you want. It looks modern, so we're more likely to want it inside anyway to show off its cool look.
Best Digital Display: ECOWITT Soil Moisture Meter with LCD Display
Moisture Range: 0 to 100 percent | pH Range: N/A | Frequency: Continuous | Update Rate: 72 seconds
Batteries not included
This moisture meter includes an intuitive digital display that will help keep your soil’s moisture levels right where they need to be. Simply put the probe into your soil and use the separate digital display unit to track moisture from up to 300 feet away. We especially like the flower pot icon, which provides a great visual representation of the moisture in the soil as a percentage of the overall pot.
The probe itself is not particularly long, just 3 inches, so this won’t work well for large plants whose roots go down into a deep pot. It’s a perfect choice for small plants, seedlings, and seeds, which are all sensitive to growing conditions. You will need two AA batteries (not included) to use this meter.
Best Outdoors: Kensizer Soil Tester
Moisture Range: 1 to 10 | pH Range: 3.5 to 8 pH | Frequency: Intermittent use | Update Rate: Continuous
Measures moisture, pH, and light
Two display size options
This moisture meter does more than just monitor water. It also tests pH and light, using its two probes and light sensor to provide readings to the analog display. The probes are 7.9 inches, making the Kensizer Soil Tester a good option for larger outdoor plants that have bigger root structures and are often in larger planters or in-ground.
It is available with a small 2-inch display or a medium 2.8-inch display. This can help growers keep track of their testing even in larger garden beds or fields. It does have two probes, one to measure pH and one to measure moisture, so you will need to be careful when inserting it near sensitive roots.
Best for Monitoring: Mosser Lee Soil Master Moisture, Light, & pH Meter
Moisture Range: 1 to 10 | pH Range: 3.5 to 8 pH | Frequency: Intermittent use | Update Rate: 60 seconds
Measures moisture, pH, and light
No batteries required
To test everything under the sun (actually, including the sun) in your garden, the Mosser Lee Soil Master Moisture, Light, & pH Meter is a great choice. It monitors water, sunlight, and pH to ensure that your growing conditions are ideal. The probes measure pH and moisture level within the soil, while a light sensor on the display unit measures sunlight in the environment. Simply toggle between the three options to get your reading.
While this isn’t the cheapest moisture meter available, this meter is a good value considering the many features that it includes. It does have two probes to measure pH and water separately, which increase its accuracy but are more likely to damage sensitive root structures than a single-probe moisture meter.
Best with Long Probe: TEKCOPLUS Long Soil Tester
Moisture Range: 1 to 8 | pH Range: 3 to 8 pH | Frequency: Intermittent use | Update Rate: Continuous
This moisture meter has a whopping 11.6-inch long probe to get deep into the soil for a highly accurate reading for outdoor spaces or large pots. It can measure moisture and pH. One of the best features is the dial face, which makes it easy to see the reading even when the probe is deep in the ground.
Like most long probe moisture meters, this is a more expensive option, so make sure that you need this kind of monitoring before investing in this larger garden tool.
Best for Kids: AM Conservation Group Ladybug Moisture Meter
Moisture Range: 1 to 10 | pH Range: Not Applicable | Frequency: Intermittent use | Update Rate: Continuous
No special features
We recommend keeping things simple and fun for kids in the garden. This ladybug-shaped moisture meter displays its reading on a 1 to 10 scale. Kids can watch the dial move as they water their plants. It’s also available in a fun frog design and comes at a budget-friendly price. We always recommend garden items that won’t break the bank for kids, just in case they break the tool.
This moisture meter doesn’t include any special features, and the probe is not particularly long. But when gardening with kids, it's best to stay focused on making it a fun experience rather than having the best tools and results. This cute little moisture meter will surely be a fun addition to your garden.
Best for Compost: REOTEMP Garden and Compost Meter
Moisture Range: 0 to 10 | pH Range: Not Applicable | Frequency: Continuous | Update Rate: Continuous
No special features
Needs a battery
Compost has its own unique moisture needs and a simple garden meter may not be enough to accurately track moisture in a compost environment. The REOTEMP Garden and Compost Meter has a robust 15-inch probe, perfect for reaching into a compost pile to get a good reading.
It doesn’t include any special features or tracking beyond providing a moisture reading on a 0 to 10 scale. You'll need one AAA battery to use this moisture meter, which is included.
What to Look for in Moisture Meters for Plants
Electronic vs. Manual
Moisture meters come with digital or analog displays. Digital displays use electronics to communicate data, while analog displays transmit that data manually. Generally, the addition of electronics introduces more opportunities for glitches. That’s why we usually prefer an analog tool for rugged, outdoor areas. Analog moisture meters are more durable because they don’t have as many intricate, delicate parts that can be negatively impacted by the elements or conditions.
The exception to this is when you want to set up a smart system to keep track of your plant’s health. Smart moisture meters can provide valuable data on how much water and sunlight your plant is getting over the long term. This can help you better understand your growing conditions, especially if you are in a new home or establishing a garden in a new part of your yard or home.
Moisture meter scopes can range from just a few inches long to over two feet. The size that you need will depend on your plants, growing conditions, and budget.
Large plants almost always have larger roots than small plants, which means that you'll need a longer probe to accurately measure the moisture that these roots are getting. If you are growing plants outside in the ground or in large containers, a longer probe will give you more insight into the overall moisture levels in your growing medium. Moisture meters with long probes can get pricey, so we recommend investing in one only if you really need that extra length. Otherwise, use your budget to get a spare moisture meter with a short or medium probe.
Some moisture meters do more than just measure the water in the soil. They can also keep track of pH levels, fertilization, or sunlight. All of these elements combine to create the ideal growing environment for your plants. Having information about which plants are getting enough sunlight or when you need to adjust the pH of your soil with additives can really help keep your plants in tip-top shape. Be ready to pay a few more dollars for moisture meters with these extra features. It can be well worth the cost!
How do you read a plant moisture meter?
Analog moisture meters are often displayed on a scale, usually 1 to 10. A needle moves as the moisture level changes to show you how much moisture is in the soil. Digital moisture meters often have a number rating. Sometimes it is on a 1 to 10 scale, while on other digital moisture meters it is displayed as a percentage.
Many plant moisture meters include color-coding on the dial to show you when the soil is particularly dry (red), a good level (green), or too wet (blue). This helps make reading a plant moisture meter very intuitive and simple.
How accurate are the readings on plant moisture meters?
Most plant moisture meters are pretty accurate; the smaller the intervals on the scale, the more accurate they are. Longer probes can also help increase accuracy, especially in areas where the plants have deep roots or the soil is deep. Double probe moisture meters are generally more accurate, especially if they measure multiple things. Having separate probes for pH and moisture measurements ensures that each is designed and performing ideally for that particular reading.
Some moisture meters also include a calibration option, which lets you set the scale to a particular neutral reading that the meter will then use as a basis for all future readings. Smart moisture meters can also be set to a particular plant with readings based on the ideal growing conditions for that species.
Can you use moisture meters on both indoor and outdoor plants?
Most moisture meters can be used on both indoor and outdoor plants. However, moisture meters with electronics are not as durable in the elements. We recommend keeping them for indoor use to make them last longer. They also tend to be more expensive, and we always hesitate to put them in rugged outdoor conditions.
What other uses do moisture meters have?
One of our favorite uses for plant moisture meters is to test the soil in a raised bed garden. We like to take readings before an upcoming rainstorm and after to see how much water the plants received. It’s fun to compare this to the actual inches of rain that the area got during that storm.
With that being said, most moisture meters are not suitable for monitoring liquids, such as pools, ponds, or rain barrels. This can tamper with the sensor and sensitivity, resulting in inaccurate readings and ruining the moisture meter for future use. This includes using them to measure pH levels.
You can also use a plant moisture meter to keep track of the moisture levels in your compost, which needs certain conditions to efficiently break down organic material. You can also use a moisture meter to measure rocks or gravel (just keep in mind that a loose medium may result in an inaccurate reading).
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Katie Begley, who has grown plants in multiple states and environments, with her three children alongside. As a self-described “lazy gardener,” she loves tools that take some of the guesswork out of caring for her plants.