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At some point in time, one of the worst marketing gimmicks emerged in the plant world. Watering orchids with ice. In this post, I will give you 5 main reasons why you should not be watering your orchids with ice.
I will also show later on in this post the correct way to water a moth orchid. Be sure to check out the short video that I included in the post to explain how I do it.
Phalaenopsis Grow in the Tropics
Need I say more? Moth orchids are native to areas in southeast Asia, with most of the distribution occurring in Indonesia and the Philippines.
In nature, they are used to warm torrential tropical rains, not slow drips of cold, melting ice cubes. Ice can be harmful to the plant and the roots.
Ice probably hasn’t been found in this regions since…well…the Ice Age 😀 It just doesn’t make sense to water moth orchids with ice.
Orchid Growers Don’t Use Ice Cubes
That’s right. You will not find any growers that water their orchids with ice cubes. Granted, the gigantic growers of moth orchids are very automated in their operations when it comes to watering (and light and humidity, etc).
I’m not saying that your orchid will die instantly if you purchase one marketed to water with ice. I AM saying that if you continue to do so, it will slowly decline.
The problem with most of the orchids sold and marketed under the ice cube gimmick is that they are often found in the cheapest, flimsiest pots that one can use and they are JAM packed with sphagnum moss.
There is nothing wrong with growing orchids in sphagnum moss, but many times the ones that you purchase are so densely packed with the moss that it really is not healthy for the root system of an orchid.
Moth orchids do not grow in soil. Most orchids, including Phalenopsis, are epiphytes meaning that they grow on other plants such as trees. Their roots are exposed to a lot of air.
Potting Media Isn’t Throughly Moistened with Ice Cubes
By being shoved into a pot with sphagnum moss that has been jam packed tight, if you add water, often times you’ll see that it will just sit on top.
So by giving your orchid 3 ice cubes, as is often the advice, it will slowly melt and penetrate the moss. But it really doesn’t provide much water.
The problem is that over time, if you leave that orchid there, it will decline and die. Orchid roots need air, but they also need to be thoroughly moistened.
If you see any orchids that are being grown in bark, 3 ice cubes will be even less successful in moistening all of the bark in the pot. It just makes no sense.
Growers Probably Aren’t Upset When You Kill an Orchid and Come Back to Buy More
I’ve had many supermarket conversations at various orchid displays explaining to people how to water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that they kill all their orchids and that they thought they were doing the right thing by giving them 3 ice cubes once a week.
I also can’t tell you how many times people have come back to me saying that their orchids finally are surviving and thriving after I explained to them exactly how to water them.
The truth is, the more people kill orchids with ice cubes, the more they will return to a store and purchase another one! This does not benefit the consumer!
Orchids are Tough, But They Have Their Limits
I’m not telling you that your orchid will die overnight if you use ice cubes. It may look fine for a while. Overtime the vast majority of them will decline and die.
You may have the magic combination of conditions where it may work, but 99.9% of the time, watering with ice cubes is not a good long term practice. I would not recommend it even as a short term practice.
The funny thing is that your orchid may even bloom if you are watering with ice cubes. But the interesting part is that many plants will bloom when they are stressed!
Plants bloom so that they can set seed and reproduce, thus ensuring the survival of the species. So you may even have a moth orchid that looks like hell, but that is throwing out a new flower spike.
It does not mean that you are doing a good job. It means your plant is on its last leg! (No offense of course. I wrote this post to help so that you can be successful!)
So leave those ice cubes for your iced tea, lemonade, or a nice cocktail. And unless you see a monkey roaming the jungles eating a popsicle, stay away from watering your plants with ice cubes. 🙂
Before you go, if you want to get all my expertise and advice on how to grow orchids, check out an indispensable guide to growing moth orchids that I wrote. It has helped countless people and made orchid growing EASY!