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 isn’t doing much for most of my plants. Misting is necessary for only a certain type of plant — epiphytes, a group that includes orchids, bromeliads, air plants, Christmas cacti, and some ferns — that evolved to grow on trees versus in soil. (Misting can also perk up cut flowers that have begun to wilt — more on that below.) Epiphytes take in moisture through their leaves, so misting provides these plants with usable hydration, 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,” says 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,” says Satch, before evaporating. (To create plant-friendly humidity levels, you can also group them together: Plants “breathe” moisture from their leaves through a process called transpiration, which in turn increases moisture levels in the surrounding air; more plants closer together equals more humidity. Think of it like creating a mini rainforest biome.) Satch warns that 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,” he says.
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. 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
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.
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. For those reasons, we’re favoring items made of materials that are durable and not too precious, built to perform in non-pristine conditions.
“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
Capacity: 32 oz | Material: Plastic | Spraying mechanism: Trigger
The experts we spoke to agreed that you don’t need to get much fancier than a spray bottle from a hardware store to mist your plants. “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 — as long as water’s getting on them.” Hachadourian also mentions that a spray bottle’s adjustable nozzle is helpful: “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.
If I’m your proxy for a hardware store, imagine the smell of sawdust and motor oil and let me walk you to these spray bottles by American bug-control company P.F. Harris, which boasts of having de-pested the Calvin Coolidge White House in 1924. They’re an especially hard-wearing option: They’re the brand used at my beloved local plant store, and and 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.” I found the bottle easy to use and reliable, delivering a cloud of spray to a Christmas cactus and smoothly adjusting to a narrow stream with a turn of the screw cap. And if you’re misting a solution of a pesticide or fertilizer, graduated measurements on the bottle simplify the process of dosing the right amount.
Best spray bottle for a smaller plant collection
Capacity: 10.1 oz | Material: Plastic | Spraying mechanism: 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 allows for more finesse in swirling mist over a plant. 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 the fine moisture falls more evenly, avoiding “heavier droplets, which tend to sit on the plant and slip off the end of the leaves.”
If you’re misting only a couple of plants at a time, the Flairosol bottle is a great option. Unlike a standard plastic spray bottle, the nozzle is not adjustable — it only produces mist, not a straight stream — and disperses about a third as much water per pump as the Harris Professional sprayer, so if you’re covering a large area, you’ll get more bang for your buck (and avoid hand fatigue) with the Harris sprayer. However, the Flairosol bottle is small enough to hang out on a windowsill with your plants, which can be a convenient visual reminder to mist them. The gauzy, slow-falling spray is helpful for maneuvering around harder-to-reach leaves with one puff. It’s also a great multiuse item: 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 collapsible plant mister
Capacity: 17 oz | Material: Plastic plastic | Spraying mechanism: Trigger
If you spend long days in the garden and don’t want to tote around a rigid, heavy bottle, consider this lightweight, collapsible spray bag, equipped with a carabiner for easy carrying. Strategist contributor and self-described “eccentric flower woman” Farrah Storr uses it to cheer up cut flowers that have begun to wilt: “You need to pick at the beginning or end of the day. This is when the plant’s water content is at its highest, so it won’t be such a shock to its system,” she says. “Some flowers, namely hydrangeas, will still wilt. That’s because they lose water through their petals. The best way to perk them up is to mist them with water.” She says this portable mister is “perfect for the job.”
Best ergonomic plant mister
Capacity: 33.8 oz | Material: Plastic | Spraying mechanism: Air-pressurized sprayer
For avoiding hand fatigue on 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: “It could cover a large area with a very fine mist,” she says.
Best mister for large and tropical plants
Capacity: 1 gallon | Material: Polyethylene | Spraying mechanism: Compression sprayer with wand
If you’ve got a monster bromeliad or a greenhouse full of rare orchids, you may want a higher-capacity compression sprayer. “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. 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.
A note on plunger misters
Absent from this article are a style of vintage-inspired misters with a plunger spraying mechanism and a metal or glass base, a category I’ve started calling “cute misters.” The best-known and most-copied example is the brass Smethwick mister by British brand Haws, also the maker of a luxury watering can beloved by gardeners, including Martha Stewart.
When I started working on this article, the Smethwick mister was among the products I tested. It produced a somewhat variable spray of large-ish droplets, which could be hard to aim but which I accepted as a fair payoff for an item nice-looking enough to keep on my windowsill. (Besides, as Satch told me, water is water: Plants don’t care if you mist them with “the tiniest atomized water droplets or the largest full-on raindrops.”) Then, after six months of use, the threaded connection between the plunger cap and base corroded, sealing the mister shut. I tried elbow grease, pliers, freezing it, and heating it; I only succeeded in pulling off the handle, which I learned was made of a very pliable metal. When I emailed the brand asking what I should have done differently, they apologized but told me they didn’t have a solution.
Since then, I’ve tested two similar models — Modern Sprout’s powder-coated steel mister and an $10 glass-and-plastic Amazon option — neither of which I’d recommend over the trigger-operated spray bottles on this list, which are less expensive and a degree of magnitude more reliable. Although neither of the two cute misters I tested after the Haws have the same corrosion problem, the plunger mechanism produces a less consistent spray than a trigger bottle. In my experience, the first press of the Modern Sprout plunger would produce a spray of fat raindrop-like droplets, then every successive press would get weaker and weaker until I felt like I was priming a stubborn water pump by the fourth or fifth spritz.
If you have your heart set on a mister cute enough to live on your windowsill, I’d recommend spending less money on an inexpensive glass model. The plastic plunger looks a bit dinky, but the Ebristar model below disperses mist as well as the Modern Sprout and Haws misters, and in my opinion, it’s not worth splurging for nicer materials if a tool doesn’t work. In the meantime, I’m on the lookout for better-engineered cute mister — I want one, too.
• 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
• Farrah Storr, Strategist contributor
• Christan Summer, co-founder of Tula House plant shop
• Winnie Yang, Strategist senior editor
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