4 Different Types of Sprinkler Heads

Updated March 2nd, 2023

Though there are many types of sprinkler heads on the market, the most common ones include spray irrigation heads, soaker or drip irrigation heads, rotary sprinkler heads, and bubbler irrigation heads.

If your home has a landscape, you must maintain its aesthetic appeal and keep it looking fresh by installing an inground sprinkler system. This lawn sprinkler system comes with spray heads, pop-up sprinkler heads, and other outlets to water your plants.

Now, you may ask, “why can’t I just get a sprinkler head for my landscape?” Well, you can’t because the different sprinkler systems are suitable for various plants based on the water pressure or intensity they need.

Before we delve into how to choose the correct sprinkler heads, let’s first talk about the different types to give you a basic knowledge of them and help you understand why certain choices make more sense than others.

What Is a Sprinkler Head?

A sprinkler head is the water outlet of a sprinkler system. The water comes out of a nozzle, and the sprinkler head is typically positioned on a lawn or garden to water the plants or grass.

4 Most Common Types of Sprinkler Heads

The various types of sprinkler heads include:

different types of sprinkler heads

1. Rotary Sprinkler Heads

The rotary sprinkler is the right sprinkler head and is best for small or medium-sized lawns. These sprinkler heads deliver water more slowly than spray heads, so there’s less chance of the wind diverting the direction of the water spray from the rotary nozzle, less wasted water, and less chance of water runoff. There’s also a lesser chance of water evaporating because the water doesn’t come out as mist. Since the water comes out slowly, the soil has enough time to absorb the water.

Rotor heads work best with loamy soils because it drains water slowly or on sloped grounds.

Rotary sprinklers also work best with an irrigation system supplying water at a pressure above 30 PSI. This sprinkler head should be installed in a way that the distance between each head placement is lesser than the water pressure from each of them. Rotor heads deliver water in either a half-circle or a full-circle.

This sprinkler head is divided into two categories: pop-up heads (one or more streams) and multiple stream heads (multiple streams of water at once). The latter delivers water in a rotating trajectory, ensuring every lawn area is evenly watered. Pop-up heads are usually invisible because they’re installed in-ground, and once activated, they come up and start spewing water.

When it comes to multiple stream heads, they’re the best varieties of these sprinkler heads if you’re watering an uneven landscape design or an uphill slope.

2. Spray Heads

This is the best sprinkler head for even water distribution. Just like rotary sprinkler heads, it works best with small or medium-sized lawns. Spray head sprinklers are best installed, with each head placement about 15 feet apart if the water flow from the system falls between 20-30 PSI. These sprinklers should be overlapped to ensure full coverage (no portion of the lawn is left untouched).

Anything more than 15 feet as the distance between the sprinklers will result in the spray water missing several spots on the lawn. These sprinkler heads are known for delivering a great quantity of water very quickly, and the spray pattern is typically a fine mist. However, this pattern can easily be diverted by the wind leading to more runoffs and waste from the spray nozzles.

Unlike rotary sprinkler heads, spray heads don’t move in a circle while watering; it’s stationary.

3. Soaker or Drip Irrigation Systems

The fixed spray patterns of these sprinkler heads make them ideal for extensive or large lawns. This system uses a lot of bubblers when spraying water. These sprinkler heads are recommended for food crops or flower beds because they deliver water slowly to the base of a plant.

Homeowners that already have rotary sprinkler heads or spray sprinkler heads should use drip irrigation in a separate zone. The reason for this is to prevent the under-watering or over-watering of the plants on their lawn or landscape.

You can use all sprinkled heads on a lawn with different plant groupings, each according to their own, as long as they are installed in separate zones. It’s ideal for tall, decorative grasses.

4. Bubbler Irrigation

There are different kinds of blubbers, including micro bubblers, stream bubblers, and flood bubblers. It’s more of an impact sprinkler because it sprays a lot of water very rapidly, and it accumulates in small spaces around trees, shrubs, or in-ground cover.

This system is not ideal for sloped grounds or slow-draining soils. To avoid flooding the area it waters, use bubblers on flat grounds and fast-draining soils (sandy or rocky soil).

How Do Lawn Sprinklers Compare to Each Other?

Type of Sprinkler HeadLawn SizeSoil TypesSpray
Rotary SprinklersAny SizeSlow-draining soilsDelivers with less speed
Spray HeadsSmall/mediumSlow-draining soilsDelivers with more speed
Drip IrrigationLargeFast-draining soilsDelivers with more speed
BubblersLargeFast-draining soilsDelivers with less speed

Lawn Size

When it comes to large lawns, drip irrigation is the ideal sprinkler. On the other hand, spray heads and rotary sprinklers (pop-up sprinklers and multiple streams) are ideal for smaller lawns. Depending on your lawn size, you now know what sprinkler heads to go for. Alternatively, you can use rotary heads for any lawn size because their watering pattern enables it to water large areas quickly.

Soil Types

If the soil on your lawn drains water slowly, go for rotary or spray sprinkler head types. On the flip side, bubblers and drip systems are more suitable for fast-draining soils.


Soaker/ drip and rotary types of sprinkler heads deliver water with less speed than spray heads and bubblers.

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