Sprinkler Head Types For Your New Irrigation System

If you are installing a new sprinkler system, you must choose the type of sprinkler heads to use for the system.

Spray Emitters

Most people are familiar with spray emitters on automatic systems. These are the type that usually pop out of the ground and send a far-reaching spray across the lawn. They are most commonly used over grass or low-growing groundcovers. Spray emitters aren't suitable for watering shrubs or trees because little if any water will make it to the soil beneath the foliage. Spray emitters also should be used in flower beds, simply because an overhead spray wets blossoms and leaves, which can lead to mildew issues.

Spray emitters come in several types. Fan-style emitters send out an even spray just above the level of the grass. They can be full circle, half circle, or quarter circle, which makes it easy to fit them to the shape of the lawn. Rotary-style emitters send out a stream of water as they rotate around. Their coverage can also be adjusted.

Drip Emitters

Drip emitters are attached to small hoses. These hoses are placed on top of the soil, with each emitter positioned near the base of a plant. Water slowly trickles out of the emitters and directly into the soil so little water is lost and foliage isn't moistened. Drip emitters are usually used in conjunction with mulch so that even less water is lost to evaporation. The mulch also protects the hoses from exposure.

Flower beds are especially well suited to drip irrigation because you typically want to keep blossoms and foliage dry. Drip emitters are also sometimes used in groundcover beds, herb gardens, or small landscape plantings along parking strips or in home borders.


Bubblers fall between drip and spray emitters. Like drip emitters, bubblers lose very little water to evaporation because the moisture enters the soil almost immediately. Yet, they are similar to spray emitters because bubblers have a sprinkler head that pops out of the ground — the water simply bubbles out instead of spraying out. Bubblers can deliver a large amount of water in a short period of time, but they do not spray upward where they will wet foliage.

Trees and larger shrubs are best watered with bubblers. Not only are the emitters capable of providing enough water, but the water also immediately soaks into the root zone. You don't have to worry about wet foliage, poor water penetration into the soil, or spray damage on trunks.

Contact a sprinkler system installation service for more help when it comes to picking the right type of sprinkler heads.