Moisture Meters: Do You Really Need One?

by Barbara-


I recently re-potted my swiss cheese plant and noted a few black soft rotted roots. It made me wonder if I was over-watering. Since the pots it is in, like some of my plants, do not have drainage holes, there is a high chance of having water-logged roots.

I must confess, I hate sticking my fingers in soil to check if its moist. The dirt gets in my nails and yeah… So I sometimes use the skewer method. You know, when you stick a skewer deep in the soil and then see and feel the soil in between your fingers to feel if its moist or dry and how long up the soil level is on the skewer. I have been lazy at doing this too on occasion. So I decided to get a moisture meter to guide me in my watering. I usually water all my tropical plants once a week and that should probably change. Hopefully this moisture meter can help me change that.

I picked this up from my local Rona store for $7.99 a few weeks ago. It is not much looking at it and I wondered if it would actually be accurate. There is a probe connected to an analog meter that indicates whether the soil is wet, moist or dry. The back of the package it came in lists what level of moisture is recommended for various houseplants so you know not to water your plants when the moisture level is right.

I tested it on my other Philodendron which I hadn’t watered in a week. The top of the soil felt dry and the meter registered just that. After sticking it right to the bottom of the pot, the meter moved a bit but still showed it was pretty dry.


After watering, it registered wet. Yeah! At least I know it is not broken and can tell very dry from very wet.


The soil on the probe was moist and higher up which also indicates the plant does not need further watering.

probeBelow is a picture of my huge philodendron. It just sprawls all over the place, wild and free.


I have been using the moisture meter consistently for a few weeks now and I am impressed. I find it most helpful for the big and deep planters I have like the one above. This is because I cannot stick my finger that deep down in the soil. I have found that after a week of watering, the top soil is pretty dry but the bottom 1/3 is pretty moist. This has curtailed my water habits a lot when it comes to the bigger plants I have. I water by whether they actually need water which is about every 10-12 days (now in spring) and not by a rigid weekly schedule. So, do moisture meters work and are they helpful? Yes, I think it is pretty accurate but probably depends on the brand or quality of the meter itself. I don’t know how long the meters are good for though. For a beginner, I think it would be helpful as you learn the watering needs of your plants although not having a moisture meter will probably not be a detriment to your houseplants. Remember, there is always the finger, skewer and, oh I forgot,  the-lift-a-pot method. Will I continue using this meter? Yes, but it is always a good idea not to totally rely on a gadget which can break down, when you can also partly rely on your ‘planty senses’.

Do any of you use moisture meters? Share your thoughts or experiences below.



Hi, I’m Barbara and I’m a little obsessed with house plants. I share my house plant adventures in the hopes of inspiring you to continue to enjoy the greens in your home. And if you have no plants (yet!) I hope this blog inspires you to add some green to your home. So go on! Try it! I think you might quite like it. And who knows? You may end up being … obsessed too.


  1. Tiff @Curate & Display

    I could use one of these for my ferns (I’m just about getting the hang of working out how much water they need now but got it so wrong in the beginning!) Most of my pots don’t have drainage either so I rely on “the finger” 🙂

    27 . May . 2015
  2. Peter/Outlaw

    I’ve never used a meter but am intrigued by them. Most of the plants that survive in my house are either cacti/succulents that are accustomed to neglect or bromeliads that carry water in their centers. I’m a bad houseplant parent. Any plant that can be watered with a hose and allowed to drain all over the floor is fine so having a greenhouse really helps. Pots without drainage holes would be tricky so a meter would be a good thing in that case. My fingernails are always full of soil of some sort so that method works for me.

    08 . May . 2015
    • Barbara

      Hi Peter, I’m finding the meter very handy with my big posts for sure. I hope one day, i too can water freely in a greenhouse 🙂

      08 . May . 2015
  3. dellob

    Hi Barb, I’ve been using one for years but not all the time. Only when I have to second guess my watering. Most of the time I can just tell by the weight of the pot but I have learned that sometimes the soil can be different if I haven’t ever transplanted that certain plant.. So I have it if I need it….Happy Spring to All…I have my vegie garden all planted and it’s doing great…Yeahhh

    07 . May . 2015
    • Barbara

      Thanks for sharing! Great on starting your veggie garden. I planted basil a bit too late so will not enjoy the spoils until a couple of weeks. Thanks for stopping by!

      07 . May . 2015
  4. Igor

    I am intrigued Barbara!! I have the same issue with my bigger plants in big planters without drainage holes. I always wonder if they need water or not!!! This would come in handy – thanks for the intro!!

    07 . May . 2015
    • Barbara

      You are welcome Igor. The meter has become pretty handy for me and I’m probably relying more on it that I thought I would for my bigger pots. Thanks for stopping by.

      07 . May . 2015

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