Like many indoor-plant owners, my irrigation setup includes both an ancient watering can and a spray mister that, until recently, I’d wander around the apartment with on a Sunday morning vaguely spritzing at all my plants. According to Christopher Satch, the plant doctor at Horti and a professor at the New York Botanical Garden, that routine isn’t necessarily great for all of my plants. Misting is only necessary for a certain type of plant — epiphytes — which evolved to grow on trees versus in soil and take in moisture through their leaves. (Common epiphytes include orchids, bromeliads, air plants, Christmas cacti, and some ferns.) Misting provides these plants with usable moisture, although you should also water them at the roots, like other houseplants.
For plants that aren’t epiphytes, misting doesn’t do much. Although “most plants like a higher than average humidity level,” according to Marc Hachadourian, director of Glasshouse Horticulture and senior curator of orchids at New York Botanical Garden, a humidifier is a more reliable way to increase ambient moisture than spritzing, which “might raise the humidity around the plant for about five or ten minutes,” but as soon as the water evaporates, “it’s gone,” says Satch. Spraying plants that can’t absorb moisture through their leaves can also create the conditions for a fungal infection. “There’s fungal spores all throughout the air, and that spore can germinate on those leaves as they get wet,” says Satch.
For your monsteras, calatheas, and fiddle-leaf figs, water at the roots as normal; that’s where your plant can make use of the moisture. (If you’re worried about leaves gathering dust, gently wipe them off with a cloth.) And for epiphytes, good news: it’s hard to get misting wrong. “There’s no limit to the amount you can mist them,” says Satch. “They’re fairly resistant to any kind of infection because they’re designed to get water on them all the time.” The experts we spoke to agree that a simple mister works just as well as a higher-tech or more expensive option — as long as it’s getting water to your plants, it’s doing its job well.
What we’re looking for
Capacity: A mister that’s too small will have you constantly running back to the sink to refill it; a mister that’s too large will be unwieldy to carry and store. The right capacity depends on your setup — how many plants you’re misting regularly and whether you’re planning to keep your mister next to your plants or somewhere else. In general, a 16-ounce mister is on the larger end of what will fit unobtrusively on a windowsill. For bigger misting jobs, we also included a 1-liter ergonomic option and a compression sprayer with a capacity of more than a gallon.
Durability: Like all gardening equipment, your mister will get wet, dirty, and dusty; you may want to be able to toss it into a closet or shed with abrasive materials like terra-cotta or stone. We’re favoring items that are durable and not too precious, built to perform in non-pristine conditions.
Ease of use: “No one wants to get carpal tunnel from spraying plants,” says Hachadourian. You want a spraying mechanism that is easy to use repeatedly, a nozzle that doesn’t clog, a dip tube that is the right size for the bottle, and a handle that is comfortable to hold.
Best overall plant mister
32 oz | Plastic | Trigger
In terms of functionality, the experts we spoke to agreed that you don’t need to get much fancier than a spray bottle from a hardware store. “Nature is cruel and unforgiving. Those plants will take moisture however nature gives it to them,” Satch says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the tiniest atomized water droplets or the largest full-on raindrops — they don’t care, as long as water’s getting on them.” Hachadourian also likes that a spray-bottle nozzle can adjust from a mist to a stream: “You can use a fine mist for the foliage, or switch to a stream if you want to knock off an insect or something,” he says. These spray bottles by Harris Professional fit those specifications, on top of being an especially hard-wearing option. In fact, chef Ash Fulk of Hill Country Barbecue says these are his favorite for heavy-duty use at the grill — a similarly grime-prone environment to gardening — because they’re “durable and hard to clog.” And if you’re misting a solution of a pesticide or fertilizer, measurements on the bottle simplify the process of dosing the right amount.
Best less-expensive spray bottle
16 oz | Plastic | Trigger
If the Harris Professional bottles are too large or pricey, I’ve been using these inexpensive 16-ounce JohnBee spray bottles for almost a year with no complaints. They’re consistent and reliable, and they haven’t clogged yet — plus, they have plenty of other uses, including making bleach or vinegar solutions for cleaning. (Just make sure to label a non-water solution if you’re prone to forgetting which is which.)
Best glass spray bottle
16 oz | Glass | Trigger
These basic amber-tinted spray bottles are a mainstay for dry cleaners, recipe developers, and pasta-makers. They have a standard adjustable nozzle and 16-ounce capacity — and might look nicer hanging out on a windowsill or shelf than a basic plastic option.
Best spray bottle for fine mist
10.1 oz | Plastic | Trigger
This spray bottle from Dutch company AFA Dispensing produces a gauzy, almost invisible mist — as “fine as the steam from a shower,” writes former Strategist UK writer Chris Mandle — which is aesthetically pleasing, albeit not strictly necessary for your plants’ health. Lisa Muñoz, founder of plant-design studio Leaf and June, likes that the Flairosol sprayer is “small and lightweight, even when full of water,” and Mandle reports that the bottle releases “a tight, laser-focused jet instead of a shallow puff,” which helps distribute moisture “far more successfully than spraying heavier droplets, which tend to sit on the plant and slip off the end of the leaves.”
Unlike a standard plastic spray bottle, the nozzle is not adjustable — the Flairosol bottle only produces mist, not a straight stream — and the bottle is made of a thinner plastic, so may not hold up as well to getting tossed in with plant pots and hardware. It is a great multiuse item, though: It’s popular among hair stylists, and although I originally requested a sample to test as a plant mister, I found myself throwing it into my bag on my way to buzz a friend’s hair.
Best ergonomic plant mister
33.8 oz | Plastic | Air-pressurized sprayer
For heavier misting jobs, Hachadourian suggests an air-pressurized sprayer, which uses a pump to pressurize its contents and allows you to mist by holding down the trigger versus pressing over and over again. Rebecca Bullene, the owner of Brooklyn plant store Greenery Unlimited, likes this Solo mister; it’s also a favorite of Strategist senior editor Winnie Yang, who once used it to distribute a neem-oil solution to fight a pest infestation. “I liked that it could cover a large area with a very fine mist,” she says.
Best mister for tall plants
1 gallon | Polyethylene | Compression sprayer with wand
“I’d suggest this for plant owners who have very large plants, or for serious tropical-plant people,” says Christan Summer, co-founder of Tula House plant shop and Tulita plant truck. She uses it for a bird of paradise and Dracaena marginata, which grew so tall that she couldn’t reach the top foliage anymore without using the Sprayers Plus system’s “lifesaving” 20-inch wand to keep the tops of her plants clean and hydrated. She also likes that the sprayer creates a continuous mist and allows users to “change the style from a wide spread to a strong stream, which really helps with the big and tall guys that we have at home and in the shop.” The plant shop uses a larger FH20 model, but Summer recommends the smaller 1-gallon FH10 for home use.
• Rebecca Bullene, owner of Greenery Unlimited
• Judith de Graaff, author of Urban Jungle: Living and Styling With Plants
• Marc Hachadourian, director of Glasshouse Horticulture and senior curator of orchids at New York Botanical Garden
• Igor Josifovic, author of Urban Jungle: Living and Styling With Plants
• Chris Mandle, former Strategist UK writer
• Lisa Muñoz, founder of Leaf and June
• Christopher Satch, plant doctor at Horti and professor at the New York Botanical Garden
• Christan Summer, co-founder of Tula House plant shop
• Winnie Yang, Strategist senior editor
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