What To Look For In A Watering Can

What I Look For When Shopping For a Watering Can

Really, anything that holds water and can be carried can function as a watering can. But if you use your watering can a lot, it’s nice to buy one that is designed well. I do a lot of gardening in containers in a city that gets very hot in summer, so I use my watering cans a lot. Yes, that’s watering cans in the plural. I like to keep one near each of my four rain barrels so they’re always nearby when I notice that a planter is getting dry. I also keep one or two underneath my air conditioner condensate drain to capture that water too.


Two of my watering cans expired on me this spring. One was cheap plastic, very similar to the ones in the header image for this post, and it finally fell apart, due to age. It lasted a lot longer than I expected it to (I think I bought it for my apartment balcony garden, twenty years ago). The other one was a metal watering can–the welds holding the handle to the body let go.

I believe it can be welded back togeter, but finding someone to do that will go on my “to do later” list. For now, I’m down at least one watering can so it’s time to go shopping.

Plastic vs. Metal

If you’re on a limited budget a plastic watering can is better than no watering can. But if you can afford to pay a little more, a metal watering can will outlast a plastic one any day, and can be repaired, repurposed, or recycled. None of the watering cans I looked at during my shopping trip cost more than $25 CDN.


A Shopping Trip

I went to a store that features a lot of garden supplies at this time of year, much of it more decorative than functional. However, I’ve bought two of my watering cans there in the past, and know that they do carry good, sturdy metal watering cans, most of which happen to also be very attractive. And their prices are competitive with, if not lower than, similar products at my local big box stores.

I walked around and looked at every watering can they had in stock, and ended up buying one.

First up, right near the entrance, were these minty cans:

I liked the rounded handles–they’re a lot more comfortable on your hand than a flat handle when the can is full and heavy. It was convenient that the top handle rotated out of the way for filling, but I wondered if that was a potential weakness/breakage point. I liked that it had a removable “rose” (that’s what they call the flared nozzle with holes in it that the water comes out of).

The “rose” on a watering can

I usually take my roses off, as I find they often become clogged with bits of leaves and such. But I do keep them and put them back on when I’m watering newly planted seeds, as the rose provides a more gentle flow of water that doesn’t displace the seeds. The one thing I wasn’t fussy about was the colour–it looks more muted in this photo, but in person it was quite a bright mint.


Next up was a can with more subtle colouring:

Good structure overall, but I wasn’t sure about the handle. I liked that it was rounded, as opposed to flat metal, but I wasn’t sure if the one handle, as opposed to two (one on top and one on the side) was attached well enough.


The next one looked more like a pitcher:


When full, you’d need two hands to carry it (one under it to support it, and the other on the handle). Nope, not practical.


Another tall one:

This handle was better shaped, but it was flat metal instead of rounded, and that’s just not as comfortable. There was no rose attachment, and the opening for filling was pretty small (this is a factor when you’re trying to position it under the nozzle at the bottom of a rain barrel).


Another white watering can:

Quite sleek looking, with a fairly large, elongated water reservoir. It only had the one handle, but it felt quite sturdy, and there was a large opening for filling. Again, no rose attachment.

It also came in black:

Chic. But I wondered how classy it would look when it was sitting on the ground by the shed, splashed with mud. Like a black car, it would “show the dirt” a lot.


A shiny version of a classic shape:

Two handles, good, but the top one is flat, and that’s not so comfortable. Good sized opening for filling. No rose attachment.


Same can, different paint job:


Another one with a hinged top handle:

The colour would certainly blend in, in the garden, and it had a rose. But the handle was flat and there were those hinges again..


A very different shape from the others:

This looked to be a riff on the classic Haws watering can*

This design is well balanced, but I didn’t love the smaller fill opening. Also, in my small garden I would undoubtedly be tripping over the long nozzle.


That was the last of the models on display at that store. I considered my options and purchased one. But I kept the receipt in case I wanted to return it.


I stopped at one of the big box stores on the way home, just to make sure I wasn’t missing a better deal or better design. They had a lot of plastic cans. This one was half the price of the metal one I purchased. The design was comfortable but a) it’s plastic and b) I didn’t like the small fill opening.


Next was a huge plastic watering can:

It had a bigger fill opening but the can itself was enormous. I have a 3 gallon (12 litre) watering can and I find it really heavy to lug around. And forget about using it (when full) to water hanging baskets–it’s just too unwieldy. Although I will say, that for a plastic can, the construction of this one felt solid.


They had one metal watering can on offer:

It was priced slightly higher than the metal cans at the home store. The rounded handles and detachable rose were good. The top handle was hinged, but seemed to be better attached than the other hinged models I’d looked at. Unique to this one was a wooden handle insert–it was very comfortable to carry. But I leave my watering cans outside all the time, so that wood would deteriorate over time.


A decent contender, but, I decided, not better than the one I’d already purchased.


And which watering can did I choose?


The sleek handled white one. This isn’t my only watering can, so I was ok with there being no rose–I’ll just use one of the others when I water beds I’ve just seeded. I’ve been using this watering can for a week and am really enjoying how balanced it feels. I have no regrets about choosing this can.


I wish I had an online link to refer you to, if you’d like one of these for yourself, but I’ve only seen this particular can at a physical store (and that store doesn’t have an online portal). There are, of course, lots of watering cans available through Amazon* and I hope my can-by-can assessment above will help you in evaluating which one might work well for you.

A Final Watering Can Tip

You may notice the stick propped in the can. I always keep a stick in my watering cans when I’m not using them, so that any critters that may fall in can get out. You only have to see a drowned chipmunk once to remember to do this all the time. Please copy my example. And if you have uncovered rain barrels, a big stick or some form of critter ladder is a must.


*Disclosure: some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


  1. Garth Wunsch on June 4, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    I bet your dad could fix that broken can in five minutes with his pop rivet tool…

    • Jennifer on June 5, 2019 at 6:54 am

      Excellent! I hope he brings the pop rivet tool with him the next time he visits.

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