A Near-Miss in my Search for the Perfect Watering Can

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Back in 2015 I wrote about my two perfect watering cans and one that I deemed “flawed,” according to the caption (above).

I declared cans to be perfect thanks to two features I always look for – balance, so that you can carry them without spilling (which the flawed one couldn’t do), and a large enough opening for a nozzle. (Namely, the Dramm One-Touch I love because it stays on, instead of requiring constant hand pressure to keep it on.)

Turns out, neither of my perfect cans made it through the winter, thanks to my negligence in emptying them and storing them correctly. Both the metal and the blue plastic one came apart at the seams a bit, making them unusable.

So after some research I bought a Bloem 2.5 gallon one (right) online at Home Depot for $21.47. The details shown on the site include this important info: “They feature a wide mouth for easy filling.”

But also there’s this boast: “Easy to handle and grip” and which is SO not true, and the first commenter online nailed it: “Handle has sharp edges underneath, difficult to carry when full.”

Making me wonder if the design team ever thought to ask a human being to fill the can with water and then pick it up because they would surely have heard the human say something like “Ouch, this thing hurts my hand!” I plan to unceremoniously wrap the damn handle with duct tape to protect my hands.

Other than that near-miss, I love this can!

Watering Can Recommendations Online

In my research I found that at Houzz, their “Most Popular Contemporary Watering Cans” are a surprisingly pitiful bunch! And they’re selling the can I just bought for $22 as a set of 6 for $125. Now who needs a set of 6 of them?

Next, I found the “Best Watering Cans of 2019: on The Spruce, apparently a content mill, so let’s look at what they produce for Google to find and give them links.

Their top choice is this pink thing. How to fill and pour it? And their “Best Galvanized”
has a handle that looks even less comfortable as my near-miss. And my question about their “Best Multipurpose in lime green is wtf?

(A note to manufacturers of garden products – some of us prefer that our plants catch the eye, not your hot-pink watering can or bright green garden hose. Water Right hoses come in subtle colors like olive.)

But back to watering cans, does the New York Times’ publication Wirecutter do any better at choosing them?

Their favorite is another Bloem can (right), and I can’t tell from the photos whether a nozzle would fit in the fill hole or not but the reviewer writes that “The twin handles—a fixed one on the side and a hinged one on top—make filling, carrying, and pouring exceptionally easy,” so I’m curious to try sometime. Just $17 at Amazon.

And my perennial question about balance was answered by the reviewer: “I experienced absolutely no leaking, spilling, or sloshing while filling, carrying, or using the can.”

Their somewhat pricier “upgrade pick” ($40 at Walmart) doesn’t look like something I’d ever want to use, despite the reviewer calling it “a standard among professional gardeners for years.” He writes that “Water sprays upward and then arcs downward, falling as gently as rain.” But why?

Still, I appreciate the Wirecutter reviewer telling us that among the features he looked for are balance, a large fill hole, a comfortable grip, and “high-grade molded plastic for longevity.” Good stuff.

But how about the product specs provided by manufacturers? They typically do NOT answer my top questions about watering cans – about balance and the size of the fill hole, neither of which can be discerned by the images they provide.

That’s my watering can rant, for 2019 at least.

16 COMMENTS

  1. My husband got me a new one last year at my request: a metal one. My many-years-old metal one had finally sprung a leak. (I will keep it near the bird bath for filling that.) The only problem with the new can is one that you didn’t mention: its rose (sprinkler head) does not come off. That is a problem because my can inevitably gets leaves and other debris in it which then clogs up the sprinkler end. Sigh…

  2. My second Dramm plastic can (1.8 gallon maybe?) is cracking around the handle and I will need to replace it. Love the style of this long reach can but is the second time I’ve had one fail. This one was replaced by the company when I contacted them, is a red color. Also my old Haws can from Smith and Hawken many years ago finally cracked by the handle but served many years. I may go back to Haws this time.

  3. Great post. Balance, size, size of opening, and the handle are all important in my book. I noticed that the handles on the old cans you own are all in line with the can and don’t go horizontally across the can.–I think this is very important. The recommended lime green can looks….a….inappropriate. It just has that “look” like it is actually used for something else. (Sorry, I probably shouldn’t even mention it.) I volunteer once a week at a nonprofit thrift store and three small watering cans came in last week. I purchased two of the three. The one I didn’t buy I immediately recognized as my arch-enemy of watering cans. My boss owned one exactly like it and when she was away, I was charged with watering her office plants. I HATED that baby.–Water sloshed from the top and never went where you aimed it.

  4. Good discussion! I have had three 2-gallon metal Haws watering cans over the last forty years. Priceier? Yes. But here’s what’s good: The balance is terrific and I like the removable feature of the rose (sprinkler head). You can turn it upwards for softer seedling watering or downwards for a moderate flow. The roses are replaceable in case they get run over, but the cans are durable. As you mentioned it’s a good idea to keep the cans emptied so the seams don’t rust. I store mine indoors in winter. For indoor plants (I only have a few) I use our tea pot.

  5. I totally agree with Allen on the design, balance and quality of the Haws. And that upward facing rose is something that was figured out a few hundred years ago. Essentially, it takes all of the excess energy (force) out of the water, actually falling gentler than rain since it falls a shorter distance. Think back to high school physics. It’s a function of mass, distance and time. Perfect for watering in tiny, surface sown seeds. As Palatino said of the early type face designers, “The old ones stole all of our best ideas.”

  6. I have the pink one and I love it! The spout turns and rose is removable. I actually bought a second one to leave in my car for when I go to my community garden.

  7. I echo the comments of Allen & Joe above: I’ve owned two, 2.25 gallon steel Haws watering cans for almost 20 years. I replaced one of the roses last year; other than that, their durability has been flawless and their performance very satisfactory. The British figured out watering cans centuries ago.

  8. A few years back, I found the perfect can (I think the brand name was Panacea); metal, 2 comfortable handles, the top one with a swivel to easier fill, big fill hole, and a removable rose with a gasket to prevent leaks where it screws on. It came in an assortment of pretty colors easily visible when left out in the garden. Sadly, I left it out one winter, it froze and broke along a seam at the bottom. So I went back to my hardware store to replace it. They had the exact same can, only the current version has the rose welded on! What were they thinking? Then I noticed that all the other metal cans had the rose welded on, even a galvanized job that sported the screw threads, like they’re a decorative feature! The only cans with removable roses were plastic, and I’m done with plastic cans. I hope the watering can manufacturers read this post!

  9. The Haws is superb.

    Was surprised to discover the one shaped like a Gnome extremely useful. The hose bib goes right into the filler hole, no interference from the handle. Balance is pretty good–not great, but pretty good. Handle nice and smooth and easy to hold. Only one gallon, but that’s okay. Also makes a good outdoor vase for big flowers with long stems.

  10. I have an older model of the green plastic haws that I really like. I leave the “ sprinkler” attachment off most of the time. Easy to fill from my rain barrels and not too heavy when full. I grip the straight part of the handle. It’s lasted about 20 years so far.

  11. I have a 5 liter green plastic Haws and I usually leave the rose off, but there’s a convenient post to store it on so it doesn’t get lost. i don’t grow many seedlings any longer, but the rose is handy for gentle watering. Have no idea how long I’ve had it, but I certainly didn’t pay anywhere near $40.00 for it. It’s a great watering can.

  12. I loved your post–I have similar quests for the perfect water can as well. I have the green plastic one in your first photo–only use it for dumping large quantities of water (the rose is long disappeared, so it won’t sprinkle politely) and have to carry it with my fingers hooked through the fill hole. Agree with you on the gray one with the handle that hurts–had the same thought about designers that don’t actually use their product, much like my dishwasher…but I digress. I also have the Bloem can with the double handles. It’s pretty good, but the swivel handle popped off and I never put it back as it was mostly in the way. The rose is removable, and the face of the rose actually is detachable for cleaning also. A neat feature is the rose rotates so you can sprinkle in different direction (up, down, sideways) and it can pour like a spout with a turn. But in the end, my favorite watering can is a green plastic 2-gal
    from Ace Hardware. It is squarish in shape so balanced well, had a handle on the top and on the back side, and at the corner where the handles meet is the fill hole. I use that one professionally for indoor plant maintenance. When it was smashed in a car accident (it was in the back), I sobbed briefly, then went out and bought another. It was $7.

  13. I also strongly endorse Haws. I have a 40 (plus) year old version of their English Garden Deluxe 1.8 Gallon Plastic Watering Can. It used to be my father’s. It has been in use constantly (except winters), meets all the usability criteria very well and is in great shape!

  14. Reminds me of a neat rain chain I saw on a garden blog—Old watering cans strung together hanging from a garden shed’s eaves , metal, plastic, all showing the love and age from their use!

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