Gardening Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Orchids

Should You Really Water Orchids With Ice Cubes?

Some merchants recommend you water orchids with ice cubes. But why? Source:

In garden centers and box stores, you’ll often see orchids with a label suggesting to water them with ice cubes. Just add 3 ice cubes once a week, they say. Or one or two for smaller orchids.

This is a great idea … for the merchant who came up with it, because cold water will gradually kill the orchid’s roots, ensuring that the plant will die several months later, even if it seems all right while it blooms. And then you’re forced to buy another one.

Thus the home gardener cries victory at first—“I tried it and it works!”—only to be disappointed afterwards. “I don’t know what I’ve done wrong, but my orchid is dead!” Rarely does he associate the death of the plant 6, 12 or 18 months later with the watering technique he’s been using.

The “ice orchid” you bought is most likely a Phalaenopsis and it’s of tropical origin. Tropical plants, by definition, never have to deal with ice or even cold temperatures. Normally, it should always be watered with tepid water. (Actually, I can’t think of one plant that should be watered with ice water!)

20171202A Flickr.jpg
This phalaenopsis is suffering from severe water stress, as can be seen by its limp, drooping leaves. A few ice cubes will not help it recover: it needs a thorough soaking. Oddly enough, even though it may be dying, it may well keep on blooming. Source: Flicker

Also, melted ice cubes never completely humidify the plant’s entire root system and leaves many roots completely dry. This results in non-stop water stress for the plant. It would really appreciate thorough waterings rather than icy sprinklings. It always amazes me that an orchid that stressed will keep on blooming, yet very often it does, even for months at a time.

How Professionals Water Orchids

It is interesting to note that the garden centers and box stores that sell these “ice orchids” actually water them with tepid water until they’re sold, never with ice cubes. If you doubt that, go to one of the stores and watch them.

I also find it interesting that the very growers who recommend watering orchids with ice cubes never water their orchids with ice cubes either. They usually inundate pots with tepid water. It’s very much a “do as I say, not as I do” situation.

How Should I Water an Orchid?

Here’s a simple way to water orchids.

Although you may not have noticed this, orchids these days are almost always sold double-potted: there is a “grow pot” (often transparent) with numerous drainage holes inside a cachepot without drainage holes. You need to know that to properly water an orchid.

Water your orchid by letting its grow pot soak in tepid water, then let it drain well. Source: orchidobessionblog. blogspot. com

To water your orchid, remove the grow pot from the cachepot and set it to soak for 10, 20, 30 minutes, even an hour, in a sink or bucket of tepid water (never ice water!). That will allow the roots to absorb the moisture they need. Now let the pot drain well, then drop it back into the cachepot.

Congratulations! That’s how you water an orchid! And it couldn’t be simpler!

How Often?

That’s a tougher question.

The same orchid may dry out quickly under some conditions yet stay moist for weeks in others. And conditions in your home change according to the seasons. Yet you want it to never get more than slightly dry. So just touch the growing medium. If it feels moist, don’t water. If it feels dry, do water.

Sometimes orchids need weekly waterings, but under other circumstances, only once every two or even three weeks. You’ll have to be the judge of that!20171202C

15 comments on “Should You Really Water Orchids With Ice Cubes?

  1. I’ve heard this same advice for poinsettias. If this were true, God would water the earth with hail.
    Just dumb.
    The only thing I’ve noticed is that almost everything grows better with water from the dehumidifier, not the tap. I think it’s the chlorination.

  2. Marilee Pittman

    Thank you. I couldn’t believe an ice cube would be good for a tropical plant.

  3. Wanda Garner

    I try to think of what the Orchid would do in it’s natural environment. There is no one out there to cut off the stems. While they can be a bit unsightly, I just leave them alone. When I can give the slightest tug and the dead stem releases from the plant, I throw the stem away. By leaving the green stem attached, I have had several keiki to form, which is so exciting!

  4. Barbara Limb

    I have been given two of these orchids in 3 months. One stem finished flowering after 6 weeks and is browning/dying from the top rnd. Should it be removed and if so when? There is about 20 cm left to brown?

  5. Pingback: How to Water an Orchid – Laidback Gardener

  6. No_Ice_for_me

    thanks for the article, a co-worker was planning on putting ice in her new orchid and I thought that sounded like a horrible idea!

  7. I am still learning to grow orchids and I honestly thank you for this! I was surprised and confused when I read on other sites that orchids, especially Phalaenopsis should have that ice cube treatment. I am from the Philippines, a tropical country, although I’m not that expert in orchids (I am into bulb plants), I know that they are native in my region and won’t ever survive with ice on their roots! I have Phalaenopsis x intermedia on my garden, though was not my highest priority, still blooms and propagates without that whole ice cube idea.

  8. Do you fill your sink up so that it covers the pot or just let it soak it up from the bottom?

    • I actually fill the cachepot with water right to the brim, so all the roots are soaking in water, but you don’t have to go quite that far if it’s not convenient. If you make sure the bottom half is soaking in water, the other roots will be moistened by capillarity.

  9. What do u do when flowers die off a Chinese man said to cut stem back to root I did the one and only leaves for 2 months no sign of new steam, the other one I left alone and new growth coming from steam.

    • Most orchids bloom only once a year. so it’s normal for the plant to not produce flowers for many months. The one where you cut off the flower stem will probably bloom at about the same time next year as it was when you bought it in bloom. Occasionally, phalaenopsis orchids will produce a second, shorter flower stalk with fewer blooms from the base of the first one if you leave it on. That’s what you’re seeing in the second case. I’m working on a blog on this subject to be published next week, if you can wait a bit.

  10. I was given a Orchid from a friend that was going to throw it out cause it was dying. I took it home I’ve been watering with ice cubes for a year now. It bloomed and when it looses it’s blooms it starts right back again. It’s on its 3rd round of new blooms since I had it. Friend is quite surprised. I also keep it in a west window during the day. Seems to be working for me. ?

    • Sometimes sharing gardening advice can be frustrating. People break every rule and their plants still thrive. It just shows what a strong will to live plants have. Continued best of luck to you!

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: