Jun 19, 2023

Our 4 Favorite Watering Cans of 2023

After a year of testing across all four seasons, we’ve added an outdoor pick to this guide, the Dramm 7 Liter Watering Can, as well as testing notes on all our other picks.

Almost any vessel that holds liquid—from measuring jugs to that half-finished glass of water on your desk—can water your plants, but a well-designed watering can does it better, with less mess and considerably more style. Here we share our four favorite watering cans for everything from houseplants to flower beds.

Our picks are intended for gardeners of all ages (we’ve had nearly 20 testers ranging from 9 years old to 70-plus). We researched and tested dozens of cans in a wide variety of garden settings, and our picks include an all-around plastic can for outdoor gardening; an affordable, all-purpose can for houseplants; a can with an extra-long spout for hanging plants; and a small metal can for succulents and small pots. If those don’t work for your needs, we’ve also identified several other good watering cans.

This watering can endured four seasons outside in all kinds of weather, and it was a favorite with testers. It’s comfortable to hold and carry through the garden, and it pours beautifully.

It’s best for: outdoor gardening, because you want a bigger can with a wide water spray that can soak large areas, like flower beds.

Why we love it: From April 2022 to April 2023, I tested a dozen large-capacity watering cans for outdoor gardens by leaving them outside—uncovered—in the Pacific Northwest, through rain, snow, hail, a heat wave, even frozen standing water, to determine which were the hardiest for outdoor use. The Dramm 7 Liter Watering Can was the clear winner. It’s also comfortable to hold, and the quality of its pour is excellent. With the removable rose insert it has a gentle stream that can thoroughly soak a plant without damaging its leaves or flowers, and without the rose it gives nice glugs of water to saturate the soil around a plant’s roots.

The 7-liter model holds nearly 2 gallons of water, and it’s easy to fill from a spigot or hose or in a big kitchen sink. Our testers from PowellsWood Garden and Edmonds Floretum Garden Club thought it was well balanced and comfortable to carry around, with no water sloshing out while you walk. The Dramm watering can is available in six colors—although green is currently the easiest to find—and several sizes.

We also tested the 5-liter and 2-liter watering cans from Dramm; we recommend them if you prefer something lighter. The smaller sizes are made in the US, but the staff at PowellsWood Garden happened to already own a 10-liter, Swiss-made version when I arrived for testing. Turns out garden director Justin Henderson and volunteer Greta Devan are big Dramm watering can fans—before retiring from her career as a commercial interior landscaper, Devan bought dozens of them for her crews to use and now insists on using them at PowellsWood, too. But the 7-liter size best satisfied both our pros and our hobbyists for everyday use in a home garden; Devan said that it’s the size she owns herself.

How the Dramm model has held up: After a year outside, the Dramm 7 Liter Watering Can looks almost new. The color is still vibrant, it doesn’t have leaks or punctures anywhere, and it still pours as well as it did the day it arrived. I’ve had to clean out the rose attachment after gunk built up in the holes—I even threw it in the dishwasher once—but other than some basic maintenance, it’s held up much better than most of the metal cans I tested.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Dramm watering can isn’t widely available year-round. It’s sold by several gardening supply companies in early spring, including Gemplers, Zoro, A.M. Leonard, and Greenhouse Megastore, but we noticed in 2022 that once the gardening season was underway, the cans sold out almost everywhere, in every color—so buy it early. A Dramm representative told us they primarily sell to local independent stores including Ace Hardware, True Value, and Do it Best stores, so if you can’t find the color or size you want online, try calling your local gardening supply store. Also, some of our testers at Edmonds Floretum Garden Club found the 7-liter size too heavy to lift and pour, but they loved the 5-liter size (it was actually the highest-rated can in my testing with them), which has a longer spout for deep foliage.

Capacity: 7 liters (about 1.84 gallons)Material: plasticColors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple

It holds a half gallon of water, it’s comfortable, and it’s colorful. The removable rose accessory—which is less common on smaller watering cans—gives you more watering options than our other picks for houseplants.

It’s best for: all-purpose use around the house. Attach the rose to sprinkle a cluster of plants in your home or on your balcony, and remove it to reach closer to a plant’s soil for a good soak.

Why we love it: If you need a simple, inexpensive watering can to handle most of your houseplants and maybe a few pots on your balcony or deck, we like the Qilebi Watering Can. It holds a half gallon of water, which makes it the largest of our indoor picks, so it will cover more area between refills. The long spout can reach the soil under most big, bushy plants, and the removable rose creates a rain shower sprinkle that’s excellent for a small collection of outdoor pots. The spout isn’t as long or well controlled as the one on the Qilebi Long Spout Watering Can, and it takes up more storage space than the Haws Fazeley Flow One Pint. But if you don’t have a finicky plant collection, this model is an excellent all-purpose choice for less than $20.

The top of the can is slightly sloped, and the fill hole is offset on the lower end, which keeps water from spilling out of the top. It satisfied one of our pickiest testers in 2021—my mother. “This is nice, it gets a lot of water around,” she said.

How the Qilebi Watering Can has held up: Our long-term tester has been using our original Qilebi can for about a year-and-a-half and still loves it. Another staffer who owns it told us the angle of the flow took some getting used to. “At first I’d often overshoot and pour water on the counter or sill,” she told us, and eventually she stopped using it for her tiniest potted plants because it gave them too much water. “That said, I do like it overall and use it every week.”

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The rose comes in two pieces, and if they aren’t snapped together correctly and tightened onto the can’s spout, the Qilebi Watering Can will leak a lot. The rose also fills up with water, so be careful when removing it (to avoid splashes). Also, testers found it harder to tell how much water was in this can when they looked in through the top.

Capacity: half-gallon (64 ounces)Material: plasticColors: white, black, pink, mint green, dark blue, gray, yellow

This watering can’s extra-long spout is precise and steady, so hanging plants and other tricky fronds are easy to reach—but it’s not as great for big plants that need large glugs of water.

(select colors)

It’s best for: hanging plants and houseplants with deep foliage. It’s not well-suited for bigger plants that need glugs of water.

Why we love it: If you have hanging plants, plants with bushy leaves that hide the soil, or that one plant in your collection that’s always just out of reach, we recommend a watering can with an extra-long spout that’s easy to maneuver into tricky places. Our favorite is the Qilebi Long Spout Watering Can. It’s the best long-spout can we’ve tested for houseplants because the spout is narrow and bent at the end, which provides a slower pour with more control.

The Qilebi Long Spout Watering Can is easy to fill and comfortable to use, and all four of our 2021 testers liked the design (we tested one sold under the Brilliest brand name, which is no longer available). It’s also cheap—we tested several similar cans that cost two or three times the price. The offset hole at the top kept water from sloshing out in testing, even when my daughter waved it around. My mom noted that the flattened, slightly concave handle was more comfortable to hold than cylindrical handles. It was also just the right capacity for her to lift without straining. The clear body lets you easily see how much water is left in the can, which our testers appreciated, and the measuring lines are helpful for adding plant food.

How the Qilebi Long Spout Watering Can has held up: I’ve been using our original Brilliest (now Qilebi) test can regularly for almost two years, and I still love it for hanging plants and bushy plants that hide the soil when I’m trying to water. I have to tighten the spout every single time I use it, but this has only been mildly annoying. It’s such a good little can for the price. Another tester has also had it for close to two years and says she still loves it and uses it weekly.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Like many watering cans we’ve tested, this one is sold under different brand names on Amazon. The Brilliest version we tried in 2021 is no longer available, but Qilebi sells the same can, in more colors. We’ll be watching to see if its availability changes again.

The removable spout is meant to save you space when storing the can, but in reality it can make the Qilebi Long Spout a little fiddly to use. The spout must be screwed on very tightly; otherwise it spins around if you bump it. When the spout is screwed on securely, however, the can is excellent.

Capacity: about a quart (33 ounces)Material: plastic, with a stainless steel spoutColors: clear black and clear green

The highest-scoring can in our houseplant testing is also the smallest and most expensive. But it’s well made—by a 130-year-old British company—and a delight to use.

It’s best for: succulents and small pots that overflow easily and need a slow, steady pour.

Why we love it: The Haws Fazeley Flow One Pint is our favorite if you have small pots and don’t mind refilling more often. It’s easy to fill in a sink, and it’s really comfortable to hold—our 2021 testers loved using it more than any other can we tried. The curved spout slows the water flow, giving better aim, control, and precision for indoor use on smaller plants, like succulents. It only holds about 16 ounces of water, but in testing we could properly water almost as many small plants as some of the bigger cans we tried because the latter were splashy and wasteful on small pots. My mom raved, “If I had a thriving little herb garden on my kitchen counter, this would be perfect.”

The Fazeley Flow One Pint also looks fantastic and display-worthy, an heirloom-quality can from an old English company. You can keep a Haws can for decades because it works so well and looks so good as it ages—like this vintage copper version from the 1950s. It’s available in powder-coated steel (we tested a light green color that’s now discontinued) or copper, which costs about $20 more. It’s expensive, but a joy to use.

How the Fazeley Flow One Pint has held up: Our original test can is in perfect shape, and our long-term tester has been using it in his home office since fall 2021, where it’s ideal for a few succulents. One of our staffers who bought one for herself told us it’s delightful. “I really appreciate the shape and feel and how thin the spout is,” she said. “It’s easy to maneuver into weird corners without moving my plants.” She’s impressed with how much water it holds for the small size, and how little space it takes up. “Also it’s just lovely to look at, which doesn’t hurt,” she noted.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: This is the priciest watering can on our list, and it has the smallest capacity, which we know isn’t practical for everyone. The Fazeley Flow Two Pint might be a better option if you still want a Haws can but need greater capacity. We’ll also be testing some more-affordable plastic versions of this can in a future update. But the quality of metal Haws cans has been so excellent in all of our testing (we’ve tried the larger outdoor models, too) that it’s worth the investment.

Availability has also been an issue with Haws cans in the past because they were only available through companies like Terrain or Williams Sonoma in limited sizes and colors, and sometimes with long backorder times. Haws now ships directly to the US, which adds to the price with higher shipping costs but should make it more reliable.

Capacity: 1 pint (16 ounces)Material: powder-coated steel, copperColors: moss green, hunter green, copper, galvanized steel

If you’re looking for a lighter-weight outdoor can: The Dramm 5 Liter Watering Can was the top-scoring can with our testers at Edmonds Floretum Garden Club, some of whom found our 7-liter Dramm pick too heavy but loved this one. All of our testers appreciated its longer spout for getting through deep foliage to the base of a plant. It’s harder to find in stores, though, and nearly impossible to fill up in a kitchen sink because of the extra-long spout.

If you don’t want to buy a plastic can for your garden: The best large-capacity metal cans we tested were the Haws Warley Fall 2 Gallon, which costs more than three times as much as our pick from Dramm, and the Behrens 2-Gallon Hot Dipped Steel Watering Can, which has widely dispersed holes that don’t soak as effectively as Dramm watering cans. But they were both still impressive and very popular with testers, and they lasted a year outside with no damage.

If you need an indoor can that holds more water than our picks: I personally bought a 2 Liter Dramm Watering Can for my indoor seedlings while researching outdoor watering cans in 2022, and it was so good on those very delicate leaves that I threw it into the test pile. My mom loved it, and my daughter did, too—it’s also an excellent option for kids who are ready to level-up their gardening.

If you’re looking for a gift-worthy can for houseplants: Most gardeners would love to get a Haws can as a gift (they come in so many sizes), but since they’re less widely available in the US, the Williams Sonoma Tall Copper Watering Can is another lovely option. It’s expensive and a little fussy for low-key gardeners, but the hammered-copper look is classic, our testers loved using it, and over time our test can developed a patina and now looks like a charming antique.

If you want a cute can for kids: The Doittool Elephant Watering Can is our former pick for kids. It was our 9-year-old tester’s favorite because it was fun to use, and she covered a lot of plants with it. But it’s the type of no-name import that’s sold on Amazon, Walmart, and a few other places at different prices and under several brand names, including Sjenert (the name we originally tested it under) and Tuhanying-us. It’s become trickier to find, so we want to test some more reliable options for young gardeners.

If you just want a cheap can for outdoor watering: For less than $10, Home Depot’s 2 Gal. Green Watering Can surprised some of our testers with its high quality, including professional gardener Justin Henderson. It’s less elegant to use than the Dramm and Haws cans we tested, but it is durable and available every spring in lots of Home Depot stores (I bought two for my own house in 2019 and they’ve lived outside since). If you’re out buying supplies and just need to pick up a can, you could do a lot worse for more money. “I can [actually] see myself using this in our professional botanical garden,” Henderson noted.

I typically cover bedding and textiles for Wirecutter’s home team, but gardening has become a central part of my life since my family bought a woodsy homestead in the Pacific Northwest in 2018. I’ve since worked with a local forester and the USDA to get our property registered as a farm, and learned as much as I can about growing and raising things (including forest stewardship, native planting, invasive species, pests, and our soil). I read farming and gardening books like they’re the hottest new bestsellers, I wrote our guide to chicken coops, and I’m an avid (but still very amateur) gardener. I grow a wide assortment of plants, with varying degrees of success: testy Calatheas in my home office, containers full of tulips on my patio, flowers around our property for pollinators, and veggies I’m constantly protecting from the local wildlife (and our feisty chickens).

In 2021 I spoke with plant stylist Hilton Carter, author of Living Wild: How to Plant Style your Home and Cultivate Happiness, and Josh Papworth, purchasing manager and consumer relations manager at Haws. Carter collects watering cans and has also designed limited-edition cans for Target, and Haws is an iconic English company that’s been making watering cans since the 1880s; I learned a lot about design and function for that year’s testing, which focused on options for houseplants.

For our 2022-2023 testing I focused on watering cans for larger outdoor gardens, and I met in person with Justin Henderson, garden director at PowellsWood Garden in Washington, and Greta Devan, a retired interior landscaper who now volunteers at PowellsWood Garden. In her 30-year career, Devan managed teams of landscapers for commercial spaces including atriums, shopping centers, hotels, and offices, and she was directly responsible for purchasing the tools they used, including the watering cans.

I’ve also researched dozens of watering cans from home-improvement stores, garden suppliers, home-design companies, and big retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Target. I’ve tested 32 of them, and established these criteria from my research and testing:

Availability: We prioritized watering cans that people can easily buy. Though some of our picks and other good cans are only seasonally available for brief windows in spring and early summer, ideally you can keep finding these year after year.

Balance and comfort: I looked for vessels that felt balanced when full, without tipping too far forward or backward. Testers also wanted comfortable handles that didn’t dig into their hands or become slippery when wet.

Water flow: We wanted to limit water waste and overwatering, so I looked for cans with a clean, controllable pour, and Carter told me to look for cans that could reach the foliage closest to the soil without splooshing water everywhere. He also suggested I look at cans with thinner spouts for smaller plants (less aggressive water pressure) and wider spouts for larger ones.

Size and capacity: I focused on cans that were a half gallon or less for indoor plants, and up to two gallons for outdoor plants. I also looked for cans that took up minimal storage space.

Style: We believe that watering cans can (and should) look great. Carter told us when he designs a can he wants people to be able to leave them out on display. He considers shape, texture, and color, and we did too.

Price: The watering cans I researched ranged from $8 to $210, but most of the options I brought in for testing were under $50 (with a handful of exceptions).

For our indoor watering-can testing, I measured how much water each can actually held and evaluated how it felt to fill, carry, and use. I watered many, many plants outside to gauge leaks, spills, and water flow, then I brought the best cans indoors and tried them on my houseplants. I had three other testers try them, too: my husband (40-something), my mom (70-something), and my daughter (she was 9 at the time).

For our outdoor testing, I followed the same methods with the help of the same testers, but I didn’t try the cans indoors. I stored them outside in the open air from April 2022 until April 2023 to test how durable they were through all kinds of weather conditions. In September 2022 I brought the best performers to PowellsWood for Justin Henderson and Greta Devan to evaluate, and I also brought them to the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club, where a dozen members tried them out on their community garden and gave me their feedback.

A rose is a watering-can accessory that attaches to the end of the spout to create a sprinkler effect. Sometimes it’s permanently attached, and sometimes it’s removable. The best ones are the latter (like the one on our Qilebi Watering Can pick), so you have the choice between a gentle spray of water and a concentrated stream. But in our testing, removable roses also often leaked while watering if they weren’t firmly attached to the can and kept clean. Water wants to find a way out, and loose connections or blocked holes are a recipe for wet chaos.

Roses also work best outside because they cover a wide surface area, which can get messy indoors. They help slow down the water flow in your watering can, which can stretch the number of plants you can cover before needing a refill and help protect delicate plants from getting crushed.

If you’re shopping for a watering can and thinking about its environmental impact, the best thing you can do is find one that will last a long time (then take good care of it), and use it until it falls apart. For indoor use, metal cans are durable and can last for years, sometimes even decades, but certain materials—especially brass—rust easily, and that just adds one more thing to the landfill. Copper or enameled cans (like our Haws pick) will likely last longer than plastic, brass, or galvanized steel cans meant for houseplants; I regularly see decades-old Haws watering cans available on eBay, and they’re still functional. But they’re usually pricier, and we can’t speak to the environmental impact of the enamel paint.

Outdoors, it’s a different story. We know that plastic has many drawbacks, but it was the most durable material in testing for outside use. Even the cheapest plastic watering can survived perfectly intact after months outside in all weather conditions. These large-capacity plastic options were made of heavier-duty material than the thinner, flimsier plastic cans meant for houseplants (but they’re still recyclable), and even in extreme heat and freezing temperatures the seams, color, and overall shape remained intact on every one. I can’t say the same for the metal watering cans I tried: One dark enameled can turned pale green by the end of summer, and another fell apart after the connections on the handle and spout melted during a heat wave. If you prefer buying metal over plastic for outdoor use, the company making the can really matters. Older, long-established companies (such as Haws and Behrens) made far more durable metal cans, and they should last a long time—those brands have been around for a century or more for a reason.

If you own a plastic watering can, it requires little maintenance other than emptying it and rinsing it out once in a while. If algae or other funk grows inside the can, consider running it through the dishwasher if it’s dishwasher safe or soaking it; otherwise, just hand-wash it with warm, soapy water. Also, despite our own testing methods, we do recommend keeping your watering can out of the sun so it doesn’t warp and deteriorate.

Metal cans require the most maintenance. Plant stylist Hilton Carter told me you should never leave standing water in brass cans because they’ll rust. Copper cans are very prone to water spots and oxidation, which can cause a patina to form on them like a penny (or turn them green, like the Statue of Liberty). To maintain a copper can’s original color or to protect it from limescale (even if you like the patina it develops), you’ll need to periodically clean and polish it. Haws’s Josh Papworth told me, “With our copper cans people are encouraged to try and give them a good polish maybe once every six months to a year.” He said this helps prevent the buildup of limescale, which will eventually attack the copper. “We love the shades of green that appear on an old copper can, but allowing too much limescale to build up can be an issue,” he said. Whereas the patina that forms on copper is actually a kind of protective coating that occurs when copper reacts with oxygen, limescale is the mineral deposit that builds up concurrently (usually from hard water), and it can weaken the metal.

“Another can killer is the cold,” Papworth told me. “If water is left in a can over winter, it will freeze and expand.” Very often this leads to a bulged or cracked base or to split seams. If you use your metal watering can outside, make sure it’s completely emptied before freezing weather sets in. And avoid keeping indoor cans near drafty windows during the coldest months.

We’ll be testing more watering cans for spring 2024, with a focus on:

The Rejuvenation Watering Can was one of our favorites in 2021—until we had to empty it. The handle is a tube of metal that runs through the inside of the can and out again to create the spout, and this made it almost impossible to get the last dregs of water out. The Homarden Plant Watering Can and Garrett Wade Copper & Brass Indoor Watering Can had the same problem.

The Cornucopia Green Dinosaur Watering Can was our second favorite for kids, but when our kid tester picked it up she spilled water on herself from the fill hole (which is placed too far back).

The HB Design Co. Indoor Watering Can is simple and affordable, but the open top made it harder for some testers to avoid spilling water.

The Bloem Aqua Rite Watering Can was a solid performer, with a curved spout that didn’t drench our test plants. But this can wasn’t comfortable to hold, and the plastic is a little flimsy. My mother, who had a nearly identical version of this can in the ’80s (hers was beige, I remember it well) said over time the seams on hers split open, causing leaks.

When you pour the WhaleLife Indoor Watering Can, it produces a wide arch of water that’s hard to aim, and water gets everywhere.

The Imeea Tiny Watering Can holds just 11 ounces of water, which our testers found to be an impractically tiny amount. And because the handle is so small, it’s difficult to hold with more than two fingers.

Some of our staffers own the Cado Elephant Watering Can, but water poured out of the fill hole at the top for all but one of our testers.

The OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Angled Measuring Cup was terrible for watering plants precisely. We know some people skip the watering can and opt for whatever cup or jug they have on hand, but it got water everywhere. It made our testers realize the value in buying an actual watering can.

We tested the Garden Glory Watering Can Crystal 8 L in 2021 for houseplants (too big) and again in 2022 for outdoor gardens (too awkward). The shape makes it hard to carry, and difficult to fill with anything but a hose.

In our 2022 outdoor testing the Smith & Hawken Large Steel Iron Watering Can bleached in the sun to a very pale green. It also became creaky.

We also tested the Novelty Manufacturing Co. Lucky Duck Watering Can in 2021 and again in 2022, but it’s just too messy. It holds a gallon of water, but the fill hole is on the back end of the duck, so when full it sloshed water on several of our testers as they picked it up.

The Bloem Easy Pour Watering Can was a previous pick in our guide from 2016 to 2021, but it was our testers’ least favorite can in 2022 testing. It’s big, awkward, and unstable.

This article was edited by Daniela Gorny and Christine Ryan.

Greta Devan, volunteer at PowellsWood Garden and retired commercial interior landscaper, in-person interview, September 16, 2022

Justin Henderson, garden director at PowellsWood Garden, in-person interview, September 16, 2022

Hilton Carter, author of Wild at Home: How to Style and Care for Beautiful Plants, phone interview, June 21, 2021

Josh Papworth, purchasing manager and consumer relations manager at Haws, email interview, June 28, 2021

Jackie Reeve

Jackie Reeve is a senior staff writer covering bedding, organization, and home goods at Wirecutter since 2015. Previously she was a school librarian, and she’s been a quilter for about 15 years. Her quilt patterns and her other written work have appeared in various publications. She moderates Wirecutter’s staff book club and makes her bed every morning.

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It’s best for:Why we love it: How the Dramm model has held up: Flaws but not dealbreakers: Capacity: Material: Colors: It’s best for: Why we love it: How the Qilebi Watering Can has held up: Flaws but not dealbreakers: Capacity: Material: Colors: It’s best for: Why we love it: How the Qilebi Long Spout Watering Can has held up: Flaws but not dealbreakers: Capacity: Material: Colors: It’s best for: Why we love it: How the Fazeley Flow One Pint has held up: Flaws but not dealbreakers: Capacity: Material: Colors: If you’re looking for a lighter-weight outdoor can: If you don’t want to buy a plastic can for your garden: If you need an indoor can that holds more water than our picks: If you’re looking for a gift-worthy can for houseplants: If you want a cute can for kids: If you just want a cheap can for outdoor watering:Availability: Balance and comfort:Water flow: Size and capacity: Style: Price: