The earliest gardeners used a wooden bucket and ladle to quench the thirst of garden plants. Though functional, a bucket and ladle lacked ease of use. Watering cans, with a handle and spout, were a natural transition. Today, watering cans are used indoors to water house plants and outdoors to water flowers and vegetables from seed to full grown. When buying a watering can, think about how the features of the container will benefit your plant watering requirements.
Lift the empty watering can. Some cans, like those made of galvanized steel, can weigh several pounds empty. There is value in a heavy can because it is less likely to blow away when empty. Plastic cans are very lightweight when empty but may blow away on windy days. Both plastic and galvanized steel may dent, but the dents can be popped out. Ceramic, glass or copper watering containers are also available but are best looked upon as a decorative piece since they are more susceptible to breakage or finish tarnishing.
Examine the spout. The spout can be as narrow as the diameter of a pencil or 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Narrow-spout watering cans are good for use indoors to pinpoint water flow near the base of the plant and not onto another surface. Wide spout watering cans are good for outdoor use to more quickly saturate the ground around the plant. Outdoor watering cans may come with a removable sprinkle attachment to gently disperse water around the plant. The length of the spout, from the side of the can to the tip of the spout, can vary from less than 12 inches to more than 24 inches. Long spouts are good for reaching deep into dense-foliage plants or across a span between you and the plant, like a plant located in the rear of a bay or garden window.
Hold the watering can as if you were pouring water onto a plant. Small watering cans will have one handle. Larger cans will need two handles or a single long handle that wraps from the side across the fill opening on top to provide balance and control while pouring. Is the handling ergonomics comfortable for you?
Consider the fill capacity of the watering can. The capacity of watering cans may vary from a few cups up to 3 gallons. The large capacity watering can means fewer trips to refill, but greater weight of the can when filled. For comparison, imagine lifting a gallon or two of milk to gauge the weight the can will have when filled. Larger cans may also be too tall to fit beneath an external faucet, meaning a hose would be needed to fill them.