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bonsai soil moisture meter

Healthy Roots, Happy Bonsai: Optimize Soil Moisture with a Bonsai Soil Moisture Meter

Did another bonsai die?

When you underwater your bonsai it dies gradually but when you overwater it the process takes only a handful of days. To successfully maintain your bonsai babies having knowledge about their water needs is essential. And a soil moisture meter makes it easy. 

But which one to choose? I tried multiple soil moisture meters available in the market so you don’t have to!

I tried and tested all hyped soil moisture meters in the market and concluded with the four best among all.

What is a soil moisture meter?

A soil moisture meter is an easy-to-use and affordable hygrometer, that measures the average levels of moisture in the soil. Soil moisture meter usually have a little window that displays a 1-10 scale, with 1 representing bone-dry while 10 representing the highest level of moisture. It usually takes a soil moisture meter only 60 seconds to read. Most are color-coded, where red indicates dry levels, green moist, and blue wet levels which makes it much easier to understand. There are digital soil moisture meters too that simply show the numbers or percentages as well as come with various features. Some soil moisture meters’ displays are angled for clear viewing.

why do you need a soil moisture meter?

Reasons can vary but the solution would be the same:

  • You are an avid gardener and you have more plants than furniture in your house and you are also someone who is busy, so naturally you can’t stick your finger in every pot and use your mind to observe all your plant babies one by one. In this situation, your soil moisture meter would come to your rescue. Also sticking your finger in pots one by one and letting your head do the math is undoubtedly time-consuming. While your soil moisture meter can do the job in minutes (Plus less messy). 
  • When used correctly, a moisture meter can nourish you with useful information on various horticultural situations. 
  • Frequently checking your soil with a soil moisture meter will help you to determine whether the soil is depleting adequately or containing too much water. 
  • If we rank the causes of your bonsai failure, improper water usage comes first and a soil moisture meter can help in a great deal.  A soil moisture meter will guide you for accurate water application and helps your plants to live. That’s probably the main reason you should get a soil moisture meter in the first place.
  • Come on! A soil moisture meter is much less costly than killing a bonsai and getting a new one (emotional and pocket damage!).

Things to consider before investing in a moisture meter

After getting our hands on some soil moisture meters we noticed that the best ones possess the features they need most. A Soil moisture meter doesn’t have to be too expensive to get the correct results. But there are a couple of things you should consider before getting one for yourself to make sure you are not ending up with plastic garbage that can’t differentiate between sand and clay.

1. Probe length

The ideal probe length depends on the size of the planter. Bonsais are usually potted in small pots a soil moisture meter with small probes will be ideal for them. As the probes are small it’s more manageable to store and care as well. Durability is usually longer than meters with long probes too.

2. Soil consistency

If the soil is hard or clay type you should look out for a soil moisture meter with a hardier probe. To be honest, indoor plants are mostly loose soil plants but no matter what forceful injection in the soil is not advisable.

3. Types

There are two types of soil moisture meters available in the market. Analog and digital. 

Analog meters are pocket friendly while digital meters going to give a tiny dent in your pocket. Analog soil moisture meter have scales and colors for easy understanding while digital soil moisture meter show numbers as a result. Analog meters don’t even require batteries while digital ones do. Accuracy wise digital soil moisture meter takes the crown. 

You can pick according to your need and affordability.

4. Accuracy

Nowadays technology has gifted us with soil moisture meters that can detect moisture levels in decimals, can alert us about humidity conditions, and detail moisture needs. Opting for such a soil moisture meter is ideal for factual results.

How to use a soil moisture meter?

  • Gently inject the probe into the soil. Make sure it’s ¾ into the soil level or touching the root ball. 
  • Two probed soil moisture meter are needed to be inserted vertically.
  • Give it a minute to read.
  • Every plant has different moisture level needs. For instance, most bonsai’s ideal level is 3. So don’t think having a mid-range is ideal for it.
  • After getting it to a perfect level, let it sit for a bit and check again.
  • Once done, cleaning and storing it is a must or else it will rapidly degrade.

Best soil moisture meters in 2023

1. XLUX soil moisture meter

Type: Analog.

Time: Gives Instant results.

Measuring style: Scale with color code. 

There are instances where my bonsai’s top part of the soil is wet but the deeper part of the roots is not getting the water it needed. Thanks to its long probe I only realized it after using this soil moisture meter.

First time when I used this soil moisture meter, the first thing I noticed how effective it was for my big potted bonsai. I was underwatering them without even realizing it.


  • Ready to use and uncomplicated to understand. 
  • Gives instant results.
  • Almost accurate.
  • The window has a 1 to 10 scale and a color-coded display. It doesn’t need any batteries or charging. It doesn’t require any preparation or calibrating, simply take it out of the box and use it. 


  • As the probe is long, it is easier to break too. So handle it with extreme care. 
  • The display window is slightly small and the shape makes it a bit harder to read in shaded light.

2. The ECOWITT soil moisture tester

Type: Digital.

Time: 2-3 minutes for an accurate result.

Measuring style: Percentage.

Hands down this is the best overall soil moisture meter. 

For me the best feature is the custom mode that allows for manual calibration of low and high moisture values, allowing more precise readings for varying soil types, with options for 0%AD and 100%AD. This mode is only accessible through the WS View Plus application and can only be activated during live data display.

It displays in two formats: visually and numerically and the adorable flower pot icon gets extra brownie points. The small sensor blades make it ideal for my small or medium size bonsais. I have had mine for three years now and it’s still working fine.


  • Waterproof.
  • The range of sensitivity can be customized.
  • The LCD display is easy-to-read and visually pleasing as well.


  • The only downside of this meter would probably be the shape of the probe of this soil moisture meter. Its flat, bladelike probe can damage the roots.

3. IPPINKA Aquameters

Type: color-changing indicator.

Time: you can stick it at the base of your plants and leave it. 

Measuring style: color changer indicator. 

Ideal for forgetful plant owners. All I had to do is to put the sensor pens in the soil and that’s it. Just by taking a glance from time to time I was alarmed about my water time according to the color it displays. As usual white indicates dry and blue indicates plenty of moisture in the soil. 

I used two in my succulents and two in my flower pot. The results were not as accurate as The ECOWITT one but it helped me from killing my plants during my busy days. 

But you have to replace the core every eight or nine months.


  • Time saver.
  • Available in various sizes.
  • Extra easy design.
  • Beginner friendly


  • As it doesn’t show results in number or percentage it can not give accurate results.

4. General tools precision digital soil moisture meter

Type: Digital.

Time: instant result.

Measuring style: percentage (0-50%).

If you think you have accrued enough knowledge about your bonsais, you have been observing them for years it’s natural to seek a soil moisture meter that gives highly accurate results. In that case, you can consider this soil moisture meter as it is well-liked by professionals. 

When I used it in sand and then clay It automatically adjusts for different soil compositions and saturation levels. 

To deliver the most accurate results this soil moisture meter from General Tools uses microchip technology, similar ones can be found in phones or computers. 


  • It comes with one year warranty and it is designed to last a lifetime.
  • It self-calibrating and is effective for any kind of soil.
  • Of course, the accuracy level is unmatched. 


  • It has a heavy-duty probe and requires 4 AAA batteries to get powered. 
  • The price is way higher than a regular soil moisture meter.


  • The prob doesn’t work in water. Try to use it in the soil only. If the needle doesn’t work take it out wipe it and try it again.
  • If the needle of the soil moisture meter is bouncing and not staying still even after 60 seconds or the needed time, there’s a probability that its sensor is touching metal under the soil. Try to take it out or try a new spot.
  • Don’t leave your soil moisture meter stuck in the pot for days. Constant dirt and water can ruin the prob.
  • Don’t solely rely on your soil moisture meter. Use a chopstick or finger method from time to time just to observe if your meter is giving accurate results.


Hopefully, this article gives you all-in-one information like those 3 in 1 moisture meters. These affordable tools surely will help you with your plant baby’s regular health checkups. But it’s better to not solely rely on it, use the sensors your soil moisture meter is giving and the five senses that you have in yourself for the best care.


Q1. What moisture level should bonsai soil be?

Bonsai trees should never be left completely dry even tho it’s required moisture level is low. The ideal time to water your bonsai is when it’s slightly damp. Most bonsai trees’ moisture level is 3.

Q2. What is the principle of a soil moisture meter?

A soil moisture meter measures dielectric permittivity using capacitance. In soil, dielectric permittivity is determined by water content.

Q3. How do I know if my bonsai soil is dry?

Stick the soil moisture meter till it’s touching the root ball, and wait for a minute, if the level is on the dry side or less than level 3 this indicates your soil is dry. Water it till it’s reaching level 3 again.

Q4. Are cheap soil moisture meters accurate?

Yes, they are. Price doesn’t play a role if it’s meeting all requirements. For sure cheap analog moisture meters can give more accurate results than your finger or chopstick.

Q5. Do soil moisture meters damaged roots?

Yes, it can and will if you don’t use it gently. Forceful use of your meter not only damages the roots but also will ruin the probe as well.

Q6. What is the life of a soil moisture meter?

It depends on the quality and sturdiness of the product. Generally, soil moisture meters last for years.

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