Ice Cube Orchid Watering [Tips & Technique]

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Ice Cube Orchid Watering [Tips & Technique]

Quick Answer: Ice cube orchid watering is a popular and unconventional method often recommended for those unsure about how much water their orchids need. This method involves placing a few ice cubes on the orchid’s growing medium once a week. As the ice cubes melt, they release water slowly, allowing the roots to absorb moisture without becoming waterlogged, which is a common problem with traditional watering methods. It’s particularly appealing to beginners because it provides a simple, measured way to water, reducing the risk of overwatering – a frequent cause of orchid death.


Maintaining the right amount of moisture for your houseplants can be tricky, particularly when dealing with delicate orchids. Overwatering is one of the most common reasons why indoor orchids die. However, watering orchids with ice cubes can make the process easier. You may have heard that using ice cubes to water your orchids can be a solution. But does it work, and can the cold harm these tropical plants? In this text, I’ll share what the research says and how you can use this technique to keep your orchids properly hydrated.

potted orchid

Why Watering Orchids with Ice Cubes Works

Watering orchids with ice cubes may seem counterintuitive because plants from tropical regions generally don’t do well with freezing temperatures. However, the Just Add Ice Orchids brand found that using ice cubes to water orchids causes no harm and makes caring for these plants easier.

”Ensuring orchids get just the right amount of water, without over or underwatering, is the biggest challenge for orchid plant parents,” says Marcel Boonekamp, director of growing for Add Ice. Boonekamp and the team developed the three-ice-cube-watering method to give gardeners a measurable and ultra-simple way to water orchids.

Marcel Boonekamp, Add Ice

Ensuring orchids get just the right amount of water, without over or underwatering is the biggest challenge for orchid plant parents. Marcel Boonekamp, Add Ice

Researchers at The Ohio State University and the University of Georgia have done studies to answer the question definitively: is watering orchids with ice cubes ok? They set up an experiment comparing moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) watered with three ice cubes once a week to a control group with the equivalent amount of water weekly. Both groups of orchids showed similar results for the overall health of the plants, indicating that ice cubes are an effective and safe way to water orchids. Although the trial only included moth orchids, it’s possible to water other types of orchids with ice, too.

Tips for Watering Orchids with Ice Cubes

Rather than drenching your orchid’s pot, then allowing excess water to drain out, watering orchids with ice cubes involves placing three ice cubes on top of the orchid media (usually bark chips or sphagnum moss), making sure to avoid contact with the leaves or roots poking out of the pot. As the ice cubes melt, the roots and media absorb the water. (There usually isn’t any excess water draining out after ice cube watering.) The cold won’t hurt your plant because the ice melts relatively quickly. The researchers found that the temperature of the bark media only dropped a few degrees while the cubes melted, not enough to harm the roots.

Of course, the amount of water your orchids need can vary based on room temperature, light, humidity, and the type of growing media (moss holds onto moisture longer than bark chips). The recommendation from the university studies for watering orchids with ice cubes is to start with three ice cubes a week and keep an eye on your plant to see if this seems like enough water. Taking a peek at the roots is an easy way to tell. “Roots that are silvery need moisture, whereas vibrant green roots are fully hydrated,” says Boonekamp. Another cue is the leaves. Underwatered plants will have wrinkled, dull green, limp leaves.

Although it’s challenging to overwater with the ice cube method, checking the media before watering orchids with ice cubes is a good idea. Poke a finger about an inch down into the bark or moss. If you feel dampness, don’t water yet. Wait a few days and check again.

Ice for Houseplants?

Most plants can be watered with ice cubes, but it is not always practical. The Just Add Ice brand extended the ice watering trials to anthurium, money tree, and several types of bonsai and found that using ice is an easy and effective technique for watering these plants.

However, some large, established houseplants require more water than orchids, making it cumbersome to water with ice. Stick to using your watering can for big houseplants. Two tips for houseplant watering success: only water if the soil is dry to the touch and allow excess water to drain out of the root zone after watering. A boggy root zone brings on root rot and invites pests.

Sources

  1. South, Kaylee et al. “Ice Cube Irrigation of Potted Phalaenopsis Orchids in Bark Media Does Not Decrease Display Life.” HortScience, vol. 52, no. 9, 27, pp. 1271-1277, doi:10.21273/HORTSCI12212-17

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Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.