The Best Soil Moisture Meters of 2022

To help gardeners determine how much—and how often—to water, we tested some of the top soil moisture meters on the market today. Find out which ones scored the highest in our hands-on tests.

By Steph Coelho and Jasmine Harding and Glenda Taylor | Updated Apr 20, 2022 11:07 AM

BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Water is vital to thriving plant life—plants would shrivel up and die without it—but ensuring that you provide the right amount of H2O can be difficult. Those new to gardening may often over- and under-water their plants, but even experienced green thumbs can mess up occasionally. Soil moisture meters are simple garden tools that include sensing probes that detect the level of dampness in soil. They’re touted as the best predictors for watering, so to see if they live up to the hype, we tested the most popular ones available.

To judge their ability to detect moisture differences, we tested numerous soil moisture meters in various growing mediums, including potting soil, dirt from the garden, peat moss, and compost. We tested them in bone-dry soil and then watered the medium to see how well the meters detected additional moisture.

Checking moisture levels can also be beneficial by helping determine whether the soil is draining adequately or retaining too much water. After a rainstorm, for instance, if soil feels dry, it may be draining too much. A soil moisture meter can do away with some of the guesswork, giving gardeners a solid idea of true soil moisture conditions.

Keep reading to learn more about selecting a soil moisture meter and find out the pros and cons of the following models, which all earned a spot in our roundup of the best soil moisture meters on the market.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Xlux Soil Moisture Meter
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Gouevn Soil Moisture Meter
  3. BEST HYBRID: Trazon Soil pH Meter 3-in-1 Soil Tester
  4. BEST FOR DEEP POTS: Xlux Long Probe Deep Use Soil Moisture Meter
  5. BEST FOR COMPOST: Reotemp Garden and Compost Moisture Meter
  6. BEST DIGITAL: Ecowitt WH0291 Soil Moisture Tester
  7. BEST pH MODEL: Kensizer 3-in-1 Soil Moisture/Light/pH Meter
  8. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Gain Express Soil Ph & Moisture Meter
  9. BEST FOR INDOORS: Ippinka Sustee Aquameter, Set of 4
  10. ALSO CONSIDER: Fivota Soil pH Meter, FV03 Upgraded Large Screen
The Best Soil Moisture Meter Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Soil Moisture Meter

A quality plant moisture meter is a worthwhile investment for the well-being of both indoor and outdoor plants—and fortunately, they needn’t be expensive to be beneficial. The best soil moisture meters are accurate and sturdy, providing precise information in nearly any soil condition. When choosing a moisture meter, consider its intended use, display type, growing medium, and any additional measurement or features that might help make maintaining plants easier.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Use

A soil moisture meter can be a helpful tool for growing any plant, from a potted fiddle-leaf fig to a burgeoning vegetable patch. Many soil moisture meters are equipped for both indoor and outdoor use, but there are a few features to take into consideration. Probe length, which ranges from about 6 to 15 inches and sometimes longer, is one factor in determining which moisture meter is right for an indoor or outdoor garden.

Indoor plants tend to be smaller and rest in looser potting soil. A moisture meter with a short probe may be suitable for indoor potted plants, which are usually not very deep. Short probes are easier to store, and durability is less of a concern with indoor use.

For outdoor plants, durability may be a more important feature. Consider a meter with a sturdy build—a model with a probe at least ¼ inch thick should be more resistant to bending, or one with a stainless steel housing instead of plastic. A longer probe is typically better suited for outdoor use, especially useful for certain jobs, like checking a pile of compost. Probes on a compost moisture meter are often thicker, too, at about 5/16 of an inch in diameter.

Analog vs. Digital

Soil moisture meters come in analog and digital models. An analog meter is a cost-effective pick for the average gardener. These meters are simple and often show their moisture readings on a 1 to 10 scale, sometimes color-coded for simpler viewing. Analog meters don’t require batteries and are ready to use right out of the box.

Digital moisture meters can include a range of convenient features, but they do come at a cost. While pricier than a simple analog meter, they can be more accurate, easier to read, and may have remote or smart connective capabilities. Digital soil moisture meters will require batteries or USB charging.

Regardless of the moisture meter type, a clear and easy-to-read display is helpful. Some meters have an angled display on the top of the unit to make it easier to view while it is in the soil.

Soil Type and Texture

The soil type and texture can influence the choice of soil moisture meter. For harder soil types, like heavier clay soils, look for a meter with a very sturdy probe. Although most meters have aluminum or steel probes, some flimsier and thinner options can bend or dent in harder soils. A probe that’s at least ¼ inch thick is a better choice for these soil textures.

As any soil moisture meter can handle the looser potting soil used for indoor plants, the probe is a greater concern for outdoor plants. However, regardless of the meter type, it’s best not to thrust the meter into soil with a lot of force. If users detect considerable resistance in any soil type or texture, remove the meter and try a different spot.

Also keep in mind that high levels of sodium in soil can cause inaccurate readings, and it may be helpful to test soil salinity if plants are failing to thrive. When using a soil moisture meter in salt-affected soils, the meter can display the moisture level as higher than it really is. In these cases, physically feeling the soil can help determine if the reading is on the right track.

Measurements

Multifunctional soil meters can include a range of measurement features. These handy meters can provide a snapshot of soil conditions that warn about potential problems. Additional sensors can measure pH levels, light levels, and ambient temperature.

  • Moisture: The simplest meters are a type of hygrometer with moisture sensors that gauge soil moisture levels. They often show the moisture level on a color-coded scale of 1 to 10, a decimal number, or a percentage value, where lower numbers mean drier soil and higher numbers indicate wetter soil.
  • pH: Some moisture meters include pH sensors to measure the pH levels of soil and give insight into whether the soil is acidic or alkaline.
  • Light levels: Different plants prefer different levels of lighting. A lighting meter measures the intensity of light in a specific area.
  • Ambient temperature: A few moisture meters also measure the surrounding ambient temperature. This measurement can give an idea of when the season is changing and indicate the right time to plant or prune certain plants.

Accuracy

Accuracy is obviously of value in a moisture meter. For the most accurate reading, consider a digital moisture meter. Some digital meters show soil moisture levels to a decimal point or percentage, making them more accurate than an analog meter with a 1-to-10 scale.

Calibration features also can help with accuracy. A user-calibrated meter allows the calibration to be adjusted for different conditions, such as for gardening or composting, humidity conditions, or to the specific moisture needs of certain plants.

Also consider the appropriate probe length for the intended use. For example, a compost moisture meter tends to be much longer than a moisture meter for plants. Most meters have moisture sensors at the end of the probe—not along the entire length—so the right length is important for an accurate reading. The probe must be long enough to reach the area to be measured. Probe lengths can range from a few inches to as long as 24 inches.

Smart Technology

Like many devices, soil moisture meters can include smart connectivity features. Smart soil moisture meters connect via Bluetooth to a smart device to display findings. This opens the door to a variety of extra features, like tracking a plant’s history and progress and making tailored suggestions for each plant.

For ease of use, these smart devices often have a sensor that sits inside the plant at all times. Users can then connect to the sensor device via an app to check on soil conditions. Beyond just measuring moisture levels, most of these devices measure light levels, temperature, and fertilizer levels, information that can indicate ways to improve plant care.

The Best Soil Moisture Meters

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Our Top Picks

To qualify for a spot in this lineup of the best soil moisture meters, the following models all had to be made from quality materials, be durable enough to insert into semi-dry soil without the probe bending, and be easy to read. We tested a range of meters, from simple analog types to digital ones with accompanying LCD displays. While soil moisture meters are relatively straightforward gardening tools, some are better suited to specific growing situations than others. The following models all met or exceeded our expectations—find out the pros and cons of each one in our reviews.

Best Overall

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: XLUX Soil Moisture Meter
Photo: amazon.com

The Xlux Soil Moisture Meter is the epitome of simplicity—and that’s one of the reasons we loved it. We tested it on various types of soil and dampness levels, and it responded accurately. While it has a 10-point scale, it’s a lot simpler to look at the color-coding on the dial. Red for dry, green for moist, and blue for wet.

We inserted the meter probe into the soil—no calibrating or prep necessary—and the dial gave an immediate reading. Although it lacks bells and whistles, this meter offers accurate readings, and the probe is securely attached. It also doesn’t require batteries or charging, making it ready to use right from the box.

While some gardeners may want the higher degree of accuracy that comes from a calibrated digital meter, the sturdiness and ease of use of the Xlux meter make it a winner in our book.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Both
  • Analog or digital: Analog
  • Additional functions: None

Pros

  • Instant moisture readings
  • Accurate readings
  • Easy-to-see dial

Cons

  • Slightly hard to see in dim lighting

Get the Xlux soil moisture meter on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: Gouevn Soil Moisture Meter
Photo: amazon.com

There’s no need to spend a lot for a good soil moisture meter, as we found when testing this simple, inexpensive analog model from Gouevn. It doesn’t come with fancy bells and whistles, but it does accurately measure soil moisture levels. In tests we were impressed with the large and easy-to-read display. Like other analog meters, it features color-coding to show the approximate soil moisture at a glance.

The back of the packaging also features a handy watering guide for more than 200 indoor and outdoor plants. This was helpful, and we considered laminating it to keep as a guide. For example, we checked the recommended moisture level for our mock orange bush—the guide told us it fell within the 4–5 (green) section of the meter. We then determined how much we needed to water weekly to keep the soil around that bush at the proper dampness.

We found the 7.7-inch probe to be highly sensitive and accurate when we tested various soil moisture levels. All in all, we were satisfied with this Gouevn as being budget-friendly and built to last.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Both
  • Analog or digital: Analog
  • Additional features: None

Pros

  • Easy-to-read dial
  • Color-coding for quick readings
  • Included chart with moisture recommendations

Cons

  • Lacks a case to protect the probe

Get the Gouevn soil moisture meter on Amazon, at Sears, or at Walmart.

Best Hybrid

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: Trazon Soil pH Meter 3-in-1 Soil Tester
Photo: amazon.com

We measured moisture levels, light levels, and soil acidity with this multifunction analog meter from Trazon. While the most critical function in our tests was moisture meter accuracy, since we were testing specifically for dampness, we found the added functions—which give a broader picture of soil conditions—quite beneficial.

The simple analog display shows moisture levels on a 1-to-10 scale, light levels on a 0-to-2,000-lux scale, and pH between 3.5 and 8. A simple switch allowed us to select from among the three options, and the results of all three are available on the single dial readout.

This Trazon seemed highly accurate when reading both moisture and light range, but we weren’t as convinced about its pH detection. This is because we tested it in the un-amended soil of the lawn, and it gave us the exact same pH reading as it did when we tried it in our blueberry patch—a spot where we’ve added a high amount of soil acidifier over the years.

But the dual-probe meter offers a battery-free design and is suitable for use indoors and outdoors. We found it to be a boon in our garden-tool arsenal by accurately determining both moisture and light levels.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Both
  • Analog or digital: Analog
  • Additional functions: Light and pH meter

Pros

  • Accurate for moisture
  • Accurate for light detection
  • Dual probes

Cons

  • Not as accurate for determining pH

Get the Trazon 3-in-1 soil moisture meter on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best for Deep Pots

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: Xlux Long Probe Deep Use Soil Moisture Meter
Photo: amazon.com

Watering tall potted plants can be problematic when gardeners can’t tell if the soil deeper in the pot is consistently as moist. We’ve run into problems in the past with tall pots that don’t drain well, leaving us to think we needed to add water—when in reality, the soil in the bottom part of the pot was too soggy. We found the Xlux Long Probe Soil Moisture Meter was just the ticket to solve this problem.

Like the other Xlux model that took top billing in this lineup, this meter also features an easy-to-read analog dial and color-coding for determining moisture at a glance. The main difference is that this version has a slightly over 12-inch-long probe for deep insertion into the soil of our potted plants. We discovered that one of our potted perennial bushes wasn’t draining well: The soil at the surface seemed dry, but a foot down, it was sopping wet. This gave us the information we needed to transplant the bush and replace the non-draining soil at the bottom of the pot with better-draining soil.

The probe is on the thin side, so we didn’t try to insert it into hard ground for fear of bending it. But it proved plenty strong enough for inserting into pots with commercial grow mixes.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Both
  • Analog or digital: Analog
  • Additional functions: No added functions, but an extra-long probe

Pros

  • Possible to determine moisture levels as deep as 12 inches
  • Easy-to-read scale
  • Color-coding for at-a-glance reading

Cons

  • Slightly hard to see in dim lighting
  • Probe too thin for hard ground

Get the Xlux long soil moisture meter on Amazon or at Sears.

Best for Compost

Best Soil Moisture Meter Reotemp
Photo: amazon.com

If compost material is too dry, the material could take a long time to decompose, but if it’s soaking wet, it might attract pests. Knowing this, we were eager to put this Reotemp moisture meter through its paces, thanks to its long 15-inch probe particularly suited to testing a compost pile.

Before using the Reotemp meter, it must be calibrated, which proved simple enough. It required us to obtain a sample of compost we felt was of optimal dampness, insert the probe, and then turn a small flat-head screw on the back of the box to 5 on the dial. After that, we were able to take readings of both shallow and deep compost piles. If the reading was lower than 5, we added water; if over 5, we allowed the compost to air out a bit.

The heavy-duty probe on this Reotemp model is thicker than an average moisture meter to prevent bending when testing dense compost and heavy soils. This meter is powered by one AAA battery, which is already in place inside the meter box. It only reads moisture, but it does so accurately, and the dial is located on the top of the meter, so it’s easy to see.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Outdoor
  • Analog or digital: Analog, battery-powered
  • Additional functions: None

Pros

  • Heavy-duty probe
  • Dial located on top for easy reading
  • Calibrated for high accuracy

Cons

  • Must remove screws to replace battery

Get the Reotemp moisture meter on Amazon, at Sears, or at Kmart.

Best Digital

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: Ecowitt WH0291 Soil Moisture Tester
Photo: amazon.com

Upon opening the box containing the Ecowitt Soil Moisture Tester, our first thought was how different the probe looked compared to all the other tester probes. Instead of a long round cylinder, the probe on the Ecowitt was flat and short—just 3 inches long.

We inserted a AA battery into the base of the probe’s handle and another one in the back of the small display screen. The LCD screen sprang to life, and we set the time using the buttons on the side of the display. Then we inserted the probe into potting soil. The display registered the moisture level as a percentage. While the probe was still in the soil, we poured some water into the pot—sure enough, the percentage of moisture increased on the display. What’s more, we tested the range of the probe’s signal and were able to get a clear signal from as far as 200 feet away.

We tested the Ecowitt probe on several potted plants, and it proved to be accurate, but because the probe is so short, we don’t recommend using it in the garden. Also, we would worry that rain might infiltrate the probe’s housing because the battery compartment is not sealed. This handy little gadget proved well suited to monitoring indoor growing situations, but it didn’t seem durable or long enough for outdoor conditions.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Indoor
  • Analog or digital: Digital
  • Additional functions: Clock

Pros

  • Highly accurate moisture probe
  • Easy-to-read digital display
  • Long-range signal (up to 200 feet in our tests)

Cons

  • Short probe

Get the Ecowitt soil moisture meter on Amazon, at Kmart, or at Sears.

Best pH Model

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: Kensizer 3-in-1 Soil Moisture Light pH Meter
Photo: amazon.com

Having an accurate moisture reading is essential, but knowing whether the soil is too acidic or overly alkaline is also vital for some garden plants. We were eager to learn if our rhododendrons were in soil with a suitable pH level, and we believe the Kensizer gave us the answer we were looking for.

As with all the other meters, we put the Kensizer through the complete battery of moisture tests, and it appeared to be highly accurate. We then tested the light function, but unfortunately, it failed to register any difference whether in a sunny spot or the middle of our shade garden.

When we tested the pH function, however, we were pretty impressed. In our blueberry patch, where we’ve added a high amount of soil acidifiers, the Kensizer gave us a reading of about 5.5, which is right in line with what we expected. The soil in the rhododendron bed measured 6.5, which is overly alkaline for the shrub, so we now plan to take steps to help acidify that soil.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Both
  • Analog or digital: Analog
  • Additional functions: Light and pH

Pros

  • Easy-to-read dial
  • Soil moisture and pH function well
  • Dual probe for increased accuracy

Cons

  • Light meter performed poorly

Get the Kensizer 3-in-1 soil moisture meter on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best Heavy-Duty

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: Gain Express Soil Ph & Moisture Meter
Photo: amazon.com

The probe on the Gain Express is nearly a foot long and fully ⅜ inch in diameter. It’s not only the thickest probe of any of the models we tested, but it was also securely attached to the meter itself; probes on other models, although functional, didn’t have the same level of reinforcement.

The Gain Express measures both moisture and pH levels, and we were able to insert it more than 8 inches deep into the soil of the lawn, making it well suited for testing lawns, fields, and raised garden beds.

The design is slightly different from other meters in that we had to push and hold a button on the side of the unit to get a moisture reading. Once we let up on the button, the meter defaulted to the pH level. Both the moisture and pH level meters seemed very accurate, and the Gain Express comes with a guide on the back that details optimal pH levels for more than a dozen common plants, including veggies and flowers.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Outdoor
  • Analog or digital: Analog
  • Additional functions: pH levels

Pros

  • Strong probe
  • Accurate moisture and pH readings
  • Dial located on top for easy reading

Cons

  • Must hold button down for moisture reading

Get the Gain Express soil moisture meter on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best for Indoors

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: Ippinka Sustee Aquameter, Set of 4
Photo: amazon.com

These four small Ippinka moisture sensors don’t come with dials or digital displays, but we found them to be quite beneficial at monitoring the moisture level in indoor potted plants. The sensor pens come packaged together in plastic wrap with no instructions whatsoever, so we had to log on to the seller’s site to figure out how to use them.

Fortunately, it couldn’t be simpler! All we had to do was insert one of the sensor pens into the soil in a potted plant and wait to see if a tiny core inside a transparent window turned blue. If it did, the plant had plenty of moisture. If it remained white, it was time to water.

We recommend these little pens for those who want to tell at a glance whether it’s time to water. We switched the pens from pots with wet soil to pots with dry mix, and sure enough, they changed color to suit the dampness. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Indoor
  • Analog or digital: Neither, color-changing moisture core
  • Additional functions: None

Pros

  • Color-coded moisture detection
  • Easy to use
  • Best for indoor houseplants

Cons

  • The actual degree of moisture isn’t detectable

Get the Ippinka soil moisture meter pens on Amazon or at Sears (with white pen color, rather than green).

Also Consider

The Best Soil Moisture Meter Option: Fivota Soil pH Meter, FV03 Upgraded Large Screen
Photo: amazon.com

For reliability and accuracy on all three fronts—moisture, pH, and light—we like the Fivota Soil Meter, which we found to be quite accurate when reading all three aspects. This Fivota meter also features two probes—one for moisture and the other for pH.

The Fivota is another simple analog meter, but it comes with a nice-size rectangular dial that makes it easier to see all the different readings than some of the smaller dials that had us squinting.

The moisture readings were spot-on, and they fluctuated as expected when we tested the meter in various soils with different moisture levels. The pH level readings were also accurate and reflected the various acid/alkaline levels in separate planting beds. It also seemed to read light levels accurately.

The unit has a button on the front we could switch to select from the three functions, and the readings were near instantaneous, which was impressive. The only slight downside was that one of the copper probes seemed a bit loose, so we had to take care when inserting the probes in the soil.

Product Specs

  • Indoor or outdoor: Both
  • Analog or digital: Analog
  • Additional functions: pH and light meters

Pros

  • Easy-to-see rectangular dial
  • Accurate on all three readings
  • Dual probe

Cons

  • Slightly loose copper probe

Get the Fivota soil meter on Amazon or at Sears.

Our Verdict

Any of the moisture meters that earned a spot in this lineup are well suited to detecting and determining moisture levels in soil, but the Xlux soil moisture meter ticks all the boxes—it’s simple, easy to use, and highly accurate. Our budget pick, the Gouevn soil moisture meter, is just as precise and easy to use, and it comes with a chart that details the best moisture levels for many common plants.

How We Tested the Best Soil Moisture Meters

Soil moisture meters are relatively straightforward to use, so our testing focused on how well they differentiated between various levels of soil dampness and how well they were made.

Probe stability is vital—we were willing to accept a slight amount of play in the probe, but the meter was eliminated if it was wobbly. Multifunction meters offered an additional test or two, usually pH levels or light intensity. While we awarded extra points for these functions if they were accurate, we did not subtract points if they were just so-so because our testing aimed to determine how well the meters detected moisture.

We subjected the meters to a range of soil mixes, including garden soil and different potting soil mixes, and we tested them on bone-dry soil as well as sopping wet soil. We awarded points based on a 0-to-4-point rubric system for various aspects. At the end of the testing, we added up the points and used them to help determine the awards for this lineup. While all these meters differ slightly, all have earned a spot for accuracy in measuring moisture and are made to last.

Advantages of Using a Soil Moisture Meter

It’s no secret that plants need water to survive, but the amount of water also makes a big difference. While you can stick a finger in the soil and try to judge the moisture level from feel, it won’t yield very accurate results. This method also isn’t effective when it comes to deep plant roots or compost piles.

Using a soil moisture meter takes the guesswork out of watering plants and provides an accurate moisture level reading. These affordable and simple-to-use gardening tools can help potted plants or garden beds flourish. A soil moisture meter is worth the investment for the following reasons:

  • A soil moisture meter can provide an accurate and numerical reading of soil moisture levels, so you will be better informed about when to quench the plants’ thirst or hold off on watering.
  • They are easy to use. There’s no need to take off gardening gloves or dig around in the dirt; just insert the moisture meter probe into the soil.
  • Some soil moisture meters also measure soil pH, light levels, and surrounding temperature. These features give a better overall picture of conditions to help take a garden from surviving to thriving.

FAQs

Aid your green thumb with a soil moisture meter. These handheld devices are a small but useful tool for gardeners, providing a tangible measure of soil moisture levels. The following answers to some frequently asked questions may further help shoppers choose the best soil moisture meter.

Q. Are soil moisture meters accurate?

Yes, a soil moisture meter provides a numerical measure, which is more sensitive than the touch-and-feel method many gardeners use. Most inexpensive analog meters provide a measure on a 1-to-10 scale, which is accurate enough for the average gardener. For an even more accurate reading, consider a digital moisture meter that provides a reading to the nearest decimal point or shows a percentage.

Q. What should your soil moisture be?

The ideal soil moisture level depends on the type of plant being grown. Some plants thrive with very little moisture (as low as 1 or 2 on a 10-point scale), while others prefer very moist soil (8 or higher).

Q. Can I leave my moisture meter in the soil?

It depends on the model, but most meters on the market should not be left in the soil. Although moisture meters are made to withstand some wear and tear, leaving the device in the soil can cause it to rust and degrade. Unless otherwise specified, it is best to clean and store a moisture meter after each use. If leaving it in the soil is an important feature for your garden, look for one specifically designed to stay in place.

Q. Should you water plants every day?

That depends on whether they’re indoors or outdoors, as well as temperature and humidity levels. In general, indoor plants need 1 inch of water per week. Outdoor potted plants in sunny, hot conditions may need to be watered daily to stay healthy.