One of the keys to a healthy lawn and garden is having a reliable sprinkler that effectively waters all the various spots in the landscape. We tested out some of today’s top models to see which ones live up to their reputations. Some sprinklers require pulling a hose across the lawn to reach all the little corners and nooks, while others can be programmed to move around the yard watering the grass while you tend to other matters. For stationary convenience, an underground sprinkler system with a sprinkler pump can run on a timer, and it will water all reaches of the yard.
We tested a variety of different sprinklers, and the following models came out on top. Keep reading to better understand what type of sprinkler can help meet the watering needs in your yard and to find out how each of the following sprinklers performed in our hands-on testing.
- BEST OVERALL: Dramm Duty Metal Base 9-Pattern Turret Sprinkler
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Trazon Garden Sprinklers
- BEST OSCILLATING: Melnor 65074-AMZ XT Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler
- BEST FOR SMALL LAWNS: GARDENA ZoomMaxx Oscillating Sprinkler
- BEST FOR GARDEN BEDS: Melnor 65083-AMZ Multi-Adjustable Sprinkler
- BEST FOR NOOKS: Gilmour Spot Sprinkler
- BEST TRAVELING SPRINKLER: Nelson Traveling Sprinkler RainTrain
- ALSO CONSIDER: Orbit 58573N H20-6 Gear Drive Sprinkler, Spike
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Lawn Sprinkler
Lawn sprinklers are straightforward yard helpers. They disperse water in various spray patterns, and they’re powered by the pressure of the water in the hose. They can be made from a variety of materials, and some have moving parts, while others don’t. Individual watering needs are one of the top considerations when looking for the best sprinkler for a lawn or garden.
Lawn sprinklers fall into six primary categories, ranging from immobile to roaming. When choosing a sprinkler, consider the local climate and whether conserving water is a priority. Watering needs for a newly seeded lawn differ from the watering needs of a vegetable garden or an established lawn.
- Fixed or stationary sprinklers vary in design and reach, but each connects to a garden hose and sprays water in the same pattern over the same area until moved. Typically only able to cover a radius of 5 to 15 feet at a time, this type of sprinkler is best suited for small yards and compact gardens.
- Oscillating sprinklers feature a row of multiple openings to disperse water in a semicircular spray. The sprinkler head and the resulting water fan then move from side to side, so your irrigation covers a larger area than most stationary models.
- Rotating or rotary and impact sprinklers spin 360 degrees as they release water. The former typically has two or more arms that spin, while the latter (sometimes known as an impulse or pulsating sprinkler) spews water from a single jet, clicking as it turns its full rotation. As a result, an impact sprinkler often boasts the farthest range of water distribution.
- Sprinkler hoses are essentially rubber hoses with small perforations lined along the top that emit a fine, controlled spray. The length and flexibility of these models work well for watering long, narrow, and even irregularly curved patches of grass since they stretch out over your ground like a vine.
- Traveling sprinklers roll through the yard (garden hose in tow) in a programmed pattern. Also called “lawn tractors,” they move like a miniature lawn mower while watering the grass.
- In-ground sprinkler systems take the guesswork out of watering the yard by operating on a set schedule. While there’s more effort upfront to map out the watering system, dig trenches for water lines, and connect a new ground sprinkler system to the water main, the strategically placed sprinkler heads can be programmed to emerge from the ground and water the lawn at preset times. Many of today’s sprinkler system controllers are smart home capable, allowing the user to program the settings via a smart device. Choosing the right sprinkler pump for an in-ground system is based on the number of zones and available water pressure.
Plastic and metal are the two most common types of materials found in lawn sprinklers, but rubber and silicone can be found in some models. The quality of the materials varies, with some types of plastic being durable, heavy, and fade resistant. Other less expensive models may be thin, fade quickly, and become brittle in a season or two.
Metal sprinklers are typically a bit more durable than plastic, but the quality of the metal also varies. Rust-proof chrome and stainless steel are among the best metal materials for sprinklers. Many have moving parts, and those with sealed ball-bearing connectors will be among the most durable.
Many of today’s lawn sprinklers come with the ability to adjust the pattern and distance of the water spray, often by adjusting a lever on the top or the side of the sprinkler. This allows the user to select various watering patterns and sizes, including circular- rectangular-, triangular-, and fan-shaped patterns.
Ultimately, the amount of water pressure in the hose will determine the maximum distance of the water pattern. For example, a distance-type impact sprinkler may be advertised as capable of shooting a stream up to 30 yards, but if the water pressure in the hose is low, the coverage area will be less. Most residential water systems feature pressure between 30 and 60 pounds per square inch (psi), and most sprinklers work best with a minimum of 30 psi of water pressure. However, a few require higher psi to reach their advertised coverage area.
Watering the lawn consumes a good deal of water. If the hose is ½ inch in diameter and the water pressure is 60 psi, the average usage will be around 630 gallons during an hour of watering. As the garden-hose diameter increases, so does water usage. A ⅝-inch hose delivers approximately 1,020 gallons at the same water pressure, and a ¾-inch hose will deliver 1,860 gallons.
Some lawn sprinklers come equipped with features to help control water usage. On an in-ground sprinkler system, the use of automatic timers allows the user to schedule exact watering plans (when, where, and how much water) in advance. For aboveground sprinklers, comparable features to look for include auto-shutoffs and flow timers that monitor and limit the amount of water used.
Our Top Picks
Yards and budgets vary so that no one sprinkler will be suitable for every yard, but I was impressed enough by the following sprinklers and their performance. I looked at the overall quality of the sprinkler and the potential durability of any moving parts. Part of my testing involved assessing how well each sprinkler lived up to the manufacturer’s description. After my testing, the following sprinklers came out on top. They are well-suited to various watering tasks, and they’re among the top options for watering lawns and gardens.
With the flexibility of delivering a narrow strip of water or a triangular spray, among other patterns, the Dramm Duty sprinkler delivers just the right amount of water at the turn of a dial. It comes in a variety of cheerful colors. I chose bright cherry red, and the first thing I noticed was that the paint was more like a quality enamel than a thin coating.
The Dramm sprinkler features a heavy-duty metal base that weighs 14.4 ounces, so it didn’t move—as flimsy sprinklers are prone to do—when I turned on the water pressure. It sat perfectly flat and did not shift. It comes with an adjustable dial head that can be rotated to choose between the nine different spray patterns. Users can water long, narrow areas, circular spots, or virtually any other spot in the yard or garden without inadvertently watering a neighbor’s yard.
With just a quick rotation of the black ring, I selected the different watering patterns. Like many sprinklers, I was also able to control the width and distance by adjusting the water pressure at the spigot. The spray patterns are accurately depicted on the dial’s face, and each one offers a uniform water spray.
The unassuming look of this little sprinkler belies its true power. I pushed its 5.8-inch spike into the ground to stabilize the Trazon sprinkler and then turned the water on. The pressure of the water caused the rotating head to start spinning, and the sprinkler emitted a perfect circle of spray. By just reducing or increasing the water pressure at the spigot, I was able to go from a small 5-foot circle to a sizable 60-foot circle, and the inside area was getting just as wet as the perimeter.
The sprinkler is made from high-performing plastic that’s designed to resist weathering. It features three separate nozzles at the ends of the spray arms that can be turned to adjust the angle of water spray. For the most significant spray distance, turn the nozzles to the side rather than straight upward. The Trazon comes with hose connectors on both ends so users can connect multiple hoses and sprinklers for added coverage if desired.
The last oscillating sprinkler I’d owned was a classic aluminum model that always worked itself sideways while watering, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Melnor Turbo sprinkler stayed exactly where I placed it. Its broad base and solid design kept it firmly positioned, even when the water was turned to the highest pressure. Using the two sets of levers in the center of the sprinkler, I was able to adjust the width of the spray pattern from about 10 to 20 feet wide. By twisting the yellow ring on the end of the Turbo, I could change the length of the spray pattern from about 20 to nearly 50 feet.
The sprinkler’s rectangular oscillating head features 20 precision nozzles for uniform water distribution, and the unit comes with a nozzle-cleaning tool to quickly remove any blockages that might occur. The Turbo also features a metal filter washer in its hose fitting for trapping debris. The sprinkler is made from heavy-duty plastic and weighs 1.5 pounds. Perhaps my favorite feature on this one is the independent twisting hose connector—there’s no need to twist the hose or rotate the sprinkler to connect the two—just twist the plastic connector to quickly and securely attach the sprinkler.
The first thing I noticed about the Gardena ZoomMaxx was how solid it was—it weighs 2.71 pounds—so it stayed firmly put when in use. This is a great little compact sprinkler that can be adjusted to water various size square and rectangular areas, from a small space about 8-foot by 8-foot, to a coverage area about 20-foot by 50-foot area. I was able to adjust the dimensions of the spray to water a narrow strip in my side yard and then readjust it to water a broader expanse of lawn.
The ZoomMaxx features 16 rubber nozzles on an oscillating head that moves back and forth with the pressure of the water. In addition, the sprinkler features a removable, washable filter for keeping debris out of the moving sprinkler parts. I was impressed by the quality of the materials on the GARDENA—it seems to be built to stand the test of time.
It never fails; the direct-post sprayers that work so well for watering my garden plants and flowers in spring are soon too short to spray over the growing plants to water the ones behind. These multi-adjustable sprinklers from Melnor offer a workable solution. Along with three spike sprinklers, I received three 5-inch risers to elevate the sprinklers when needed.
Each sprinkler comes with an adjustable head that allows the user to select anywhere from a small stream of water to a 360-degree circular pattern. In addition, each sprinkler features both a male and a female hose-attachment end so all three can be connected via hoses. I found the plastic spikes to be well built and solid—they pushed easily into the ground, and I was able to adjust the spray on all three to where it watered my plants perfectly. For those with large or complex garden spots, a lot of watering time could be saved by connecting two or more of these spike sets. It eliminates the need to move a sprinkler around constantly.
At first, I almost didn’t see this little sprinkler in the bottom of the shipping box—it’s just 4.5 inches wide, 3-inches long, and stands less than 1 inch tall. It’s made to last, however, featuring long-wearing metal construction. The body is molded from metal, and a durable metal spray insert is firmly attached to the top. This Gilmore Spot Sprinkler isn’t going to be suitable for watering large yards, but it’s just the ticket for watering small nooks and spots that other sprinklers miss.
It sprays in a circular pattern that’s only adjustable by increasing or decreasing the water pressure at the spigot. The spray pattern is almost a perfect circle, and at maximum water pressure, it emitted a circle nearly 45 feet in diameter. The high water pressure caused the sprinkler to list slightly to one side, so I would recommend using low pressure to avoid this issue, or inserting a nail into the small hole at the top to help it remain flat if watering with high water pressure. I didn’t have to insert one as I opted to use relatively low water pressure instead. I found that this little gem produces a uniform spray and is best suited to watering small areas in landscaped beds, rock gardens, and anywhere else a bigger sprinkler would be overkill.
The first thing I noticed about the Nelson Traveling Sprinkler RainTrain was how heavy and well-made it was. The sprinkler body is made from cast iron and it comes with canary-yellow powdered coating to prevent rusting. The four white wheels are made from extra heavy-duty molded plastic and feature sharp spikes that push the heavy sprinkler along without slipping in the wet grass. The two aluminum broadcast arms were a snap to connect, and at that point, it was ready to test.
I laid my garden hose along the path I wanted to water and then positioned the RainTrain at the end—the small front wheels fit perfectly over the hose. I created a series of slow turns in the hose path, and I wondered if the front wheels would remain centered when the sprinkler reached a turn or if they’d climb over the hose. I needn’t have wondered; the traveling sprinkler stayed right on the hose guide the entire time, following it faithfully.
By simply tipping the broadcast arms upward or downward, I could adjust the width of the watering circle from about 15 feet up to about 45 feet, and I tested all three speeds. In the end, I selected the lowest speed and a medium watering width because it seemed best-suited to delivering the right amount of water to the lawn. The RainTrain is a formidable sprinkler that will water a long stretch of yard without the user needing to change the sprinkler’s position.
The Orbit Gear Drive Sprinkler reminded me of a traditional impact sprinkler, but with more watering patterns and more uniform coverage. The Orbit sprinkler is cylindrical and comes mounted on a steel spike that keeps it stabilized while watering. The adjustments are simple and easy to learn—I didn’t even have to read the instructions to see how it worked. A large white arrow indicates the distance of the water spray and is easy to adjust with the notched collar at the top of the sprinkler.
By adjusting the ribbed collar tabs located near the bottom of the sprinkler, I was able to select the scope of the area to water—from a narrow spot—to an entire circle. The spray patterns made the sprinkler highly versatile. I ran through all of them, from a fine mist that was just right for my ferns to larger droplets that were perfect for watering the grass. Like an impact sprinkler, the Orbit moves in a circular pattern but without the annoying click-click-click sound. This sprinkler is quiet, and the only sound heard is that of the water when spraying under pressure.
All in all, the Orbit is a solidly built little sprinkler that won’t take up a lot of room on a shelf or in a utility drawer. It’s made from durable plastic, and I was pretty impressed with its performance. It’s straightforward to adjust and offers various watering patterns and sizes, making it well-suited to most lawn and garden watering tasks.
How We Tested
To pinpoint which types of sprinklers were best for certain tasks, such as watering large areas of grass or keeping a flowerbed well irrigated, I tested a variety of sprinkler types. I individually tested each sprinkler by assembling parts (if necessary) and then by attaching each to a garden hose. Then observed how it operated and whether it met the manufacturer’s watering claims. For adjustable sprinklers, I selected and observed each of the different watering patterns, taking note of the size of the watering patterns as well as the distribution of the water droplets.
The maximum water pressure at my outdoor spigot runs an average of 60 psi, but I didn’t test all the sprinklers at maximum pressure. I adjusted the pressure to suit the individual sprinkler, meaning I used a lower water pressure to water small areas of the flower garden and I used full pressure when testing lawn sprinklers. Unless a spigot has unusually low water pressure, the sprinklers in this lineup should perform well in most residential settings.
FAQs About Lawn Sprinklers
Lawn sprinklers vary widely in quality, price, and the type of water pattern they disperse. Choosing the best lawn sprinkler requires considering the lawn’s or garden’s individual water needs. For some yards, more than one sprinkler may be necessary. For those just starting the sprinkler shopping process, here are answers to some popular questions.
Q. What should I look for in a sprinkler system?
Focus on quality, and make sure the sprinkler can be adjusted to the size and configuration of the area that needs watering.
Q. What is the best kind of garden sprinkler?
An efficient garden sprinkler should be able to reach all areas of the flower or vegetable garden without being blocked by tall plants. This may mean using a small rotating sprinkler and moving it from location to location as needed, or using a set of connecting sprinklers, such as the Melnor Multi-Adjustable Sprinkler Set, that can be positioned independently to cover all the plants at once.
Q. What kind of sprinkler covers the most area?
An oscillating sprinkler will cover a wide lawn expanse. A tractor-type sprinkler, such as the Nelson Traveling Rain Train, can be positioned at one end of a large lawn, and it will eventually work its way to the other end, watering a large swath along the way.
Q. How many minutes should you water your lawn?
Sprinklers dispense water at different rates, so rather than a set number of minutes, the general rule is to water enough so that the lawn receives 1 inch of water per week.
I was more impressed than I thought I’d be by the quality of the lawn and garden sprinklers I tested. The ones that made my short list above all performed well and were made from quality materials. I expect each to offer years of service. With water conservation becoming a high priority across the country, it makes sense to purchase the right type of sprinkler(s) for individual yards and gardens. Oscillating models cover a wide area, while adjustable rotary and spot sprinklers can be used to supplement in smaller parts of the yard.