Guide: Soil Moisture Recommendations for Flowers, Plants, and Vegetables

AcuRite Soil Moisture Meter among flowers

Guide: Soil Moisture Recommendations for Flowers, Plants, and Vegetables

This article was originally published in April of 2018 but has been updated to include relevant content.

A garden needs a few things to thrive: water, sunlight, and ample room to grow, to name a few. Soil moisture, which goes hand-in-hand with proper watering, is another crucial component of keeping flowers, plants, and vegetables healthy.

What Is Soil Moisture?

Soil moisture is the amount of water that is captured and stored within the soil and is greatly dependent on precipitation (rainfall), temperature, humidity, and soil type. Whether concerning your lawn soil or your garden soil, stated simply, the soil moisture content can generally be referred to as the dryness of your soil.

Why Is Soil Moisture Important?

Knowing your soil moisture content is crucial for all gardens, lawns, and landscapes because different plants, soil types, and climates require different moisture content levels to thrive. If you pay close attention to your ideal soil moisture, then you can adjust your watering cycles and drip irrigation appropriately. In regions prone to drought, this can positively impact the environment (and your wallet, too!) by reducing your household water consumption, which reduces your water bill!

3 Types of Soil and Watering Information

Different types of soil can exist in many different regions and climates. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of various soil types and the amount of watering they require:

1.) Loam Soil

Loam soil retains moisture well, making it the optimal soil type for thriving gardens and can be watered normally. Identify loam soil by its color and texture: it has a darker brown or black shade and is crumbly to the touch but still holds water well. Garden flowers and plants grow best in loam soil.

2.) Sandy Soil

Sandy soil drains quickly, so it requires slow watering to thoroughly saturate soil root zones. To distinguish sandy soil from other soil types, it is usually light brown in color with a gritty texture. Because of this porous characteristic, it is not ideal for seedlings as water drains away quickly.

3.) Clay Soil

Clay soil holds more water than other types of soil but is slow to absorb and release the moisture. It is not recommended to over-water or water faster than the clay can absorb. Clay soil is characterized by its small particles and texture. When wet, clay soil is sticky to the touch but feels smooth when dry. Due to its high water capacity, it is often considered a heavier soil, and less commonly known is that clay soil can also take longer to warm up in the spring.

Moisture Meter for Plants and Vegetables

General Soil Moisture Information & Tips

No matter which type of soil you are using, these general tips can help:

  • If you have sandy or heavy clay soils and would like to improve water retention, add compost or organic matter to your soil.
  • Adding sand to clay soils or clay to sandy soils will create a cement-like soil, making water retention worse.
  • One inch of water per week is adequate for most plants. You may use a basic analog rain gauge to track your weekly rainfall.
  • If you want to quickly check soil moisture, insert a garden trowel or a wooden dowel into the ground. This can also show you the depth of the moisture.

Recommended Soil Moisture Levels

The plants listed in this guide represent commonly found species. Consult a local horticulture professional for more specific details on plants not found on this list. It is important to note that the majority of flowers, trees, and shrubs require moisture levels between 21% -  40%, while all vegetables require soil moisture between 41% and 80%.

NOTE: All vegetables require soil moisture between 41% - 80%.

Click the images below to view them larger.

Moisture levels for Flowers

Moisture levels for trees and shrubs

AcuRite Solution: AcuRite Smart Garden Monitoring

Monitor your garden soil moisture with real-time rainfall data measured right in your backyard. From digital rain gauges with storm alerts to complete garden weather stations with Wi-Fi connectivity, AcuRite offers all the wireless weather monitoring products to help you improve your garden health. With daily reports rainfall accumulation, you can adjust your watering cycle and irrigation system to maintain ideal moisture levels for your plants, as described in the charts above. Overwatering is the most detrimental to plants, so make sure your indoor and outdoor plants remain at the optimal moisture level year-round. Also, use this handy guide to further examine soil nutrients or this article to learn more about best soil conditions for your plants.

What’s your ideal soil moisture for your plants? Have you found one specific type of plant to be more or less sensitive to changes in soil moisture? How do you maintain your optimal soil conditions for your garden? Share your garden success stories in the comments below!

March 18, 2022
Terrence Belunes
July 30, 2019
There are no vegetables listed.................
Margaret Houlihan
November 27, 2019 the top of the chart before there are any lists, the author said that all vegetables need 41% to 80%. I had the same question, but then saw the statement that starts with NOTE:. I'm going to guess that you missed that the same way I did!
June 6, 2020
Great list and really useful. I noticed you don't have much on succulents such as aloe vera, aeoneums, and the like. are they in the same range as Agave and Cactus, (0-20%) or are they in the next range
September 4, 2020
They say 41-80 percent for vegetables, I may be watering my broccoli at 80 percent but it might need to be watered at 45 percent . Do you have a list for vegetables?
October 6, 2020
What should the moisture level of a gynura aurantiaca sarmentosa be? I recently gotten an infestation in my plants, I need to water them soon, I bought a meter. But I don't know what the water level for the plant suppose to be. Please help me.
steven e atkinson
May 1, 2021
Readings for geraniums and salvia?
Kat Risley
November 2, 2021
Salvia officinalis, the fuzzy garden sage, seems to like soil the same level that lavender and rosemary like, in my experience. Other forms of salvia may need more water, I don't know. I don't grow geranium but another list I have says 0 - 3. I'm no expert, so no guarantees, but I didn't see anyone more expert answering you.
July 8, 2021
Your plant list is missing many species, I have 2 Elephant Ears plant and need the number to go by.
September 24, 2021
I don’t see the chart for vegetables.
AcuRite Team
September 27, 2021
Hello Diane, It is noted above the charts that all vegetables require soil moisture between 41% - 80%. Please feel free to reach out to our support team via live chat or email request if we can further assist!
Christopher La Grange
April 6, 2022
Hi. Moisture content for all vegetables if 41 - 80% is suggested. Can you please share a narrower range for cucumbers and eggplants. Thanks
Joseph Curwen
April 25, 2023
Adrian D.
July 1, 2022
Can you email me the sources for this information?
AcuRite Team
July 19, 2022
The information provided by this blog entry is also included in some of our discontinued product manuals. Please feel free to reach out to our support team via live chat or email request for more information.
April 10, 2023
What is a good moisture level for lawns commonly found in a yard?
April 26, 2023
would this work for soil moisture for my lawn?
May 18, 2023
can you do one of these chart for % of soil moisture for vegetables?
Asrat T.
May 31, 2023
where is for vegetables?
July 2, 2023
can you provide a list of the recommended soil moisture levels for vegetables like you did with soil pH recommendation? I'm specifically looking for radish.
July 21, 2023
Your charts are not active to click for larger view
AcuRite Team
July 27, 2023
We apologize! You can right-click on the images and open in a new tab to view them larger instead.
September 12, 2023
What moisture level does pyracantha require?
Bob Schlott
November 1, 2023
What is recommended soil moisture for hibiscus?
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