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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!
If you have a dying orchid, check out what you need to do to bring your orchid back to life.
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. 🙂
Lastly, I’d recommend reading my blog post on 3 great methods to use to water orchids.
Before you go, if you want to get all my expertise and advice on how to grow orchids, check out my easy-to-understand and concise eBook that I wrote, Moth Orchid Mastery. It has helped countless people and made orchid growing EASY!
Looking to purchase a special Phalaenopsis orchid? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the Phalaenopsis orchid selection (link to Etsy) today!
Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:
OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT
Friday 2nd of September 2022
Love your posts! So sad to learn that I'm stressing the plants with ice cubes :( Hopefully, they'll recover. Thank you
Monday 5th of September 2022
Monday 1st of August 2022
what a great site! I have killed so many peperomias (ferryrae and obtusifolia) using succulent cactus potting soil and did not overwater yet it became water logged. Is this not a common soil to use for repotting these types or should I have added more perlite besides what is already in the bought cactus succulent soil bag?
Tuesday 2nd of August 2022
Hi Karen! For anything that has succulent leaves, I like to add pumice instead. I find that most cactus/succulent potting mix blends need to be amended with materials like pumice because on its own, I don't find it sufficient. Here is a post I wrote about the pumice that I like to use. I've been using it for years and love it! https://www.ohiotropics.com/2022/04/21/best-pumice-for-succulents/
Sunday 10th of July 2022
Just wanted to thank you for all of the knowledge that you've given me thus far...I am obsessed with your site! (and youtube videos) I will definitely check out your eBook on moth orchids (sadly I've been loving but also killing my orchids for years). Keep doing what you're doing and THANK YOU!
Monday 11th of July 2022
I'm so happy that you're enjoying my site, and thank you for the kind comments It keeps me doing when I hear these things from my readers :-) Good luck with your moth orchids. I'm sure the little booklet will be very beneficial! I also have a traditionally published book that I came out with this past March: Houseplant Warrior if you are interested :-)
Wednesday 4th of May 2022
You are obviously a plant whisperer. Thank you for the orchid advice before I kill mine with ice cubes. My cold water isn't softened so would it be ok to leave some out to get room temp then water my orchid. How often do I need to water this way since I was used to the icecube schedule. Thanks much!
Friday 6th of May 2022
Hi Deb! It depends on what your orchid is growing in. If it's growing in sphagnum moss, that usually takes a bit longer to dry out than bark. So for moss, I wait until the top half inch or so feels dry. For orchids growing in a bark mix, you can pretty safely water about once a week. Soak it well. It's hard to "overwater" in mixes that are mostly bark. I hope this helps a bit!
Sunday 16th of August 2020
Got the peace plant down. Now I need to know about a beautiful, red Bromiliad plant my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. Now it looks like brown petrified wood, even the leaves. I am afraid to touch it, for sure it will full down in a pile. I’d never seen one of these before, so went to the florists she ordered it from, she didn’t know much either. Unfortunately, we were in the beginning of COVID 19. There wasn’t much any of us new about anything! Plants were being marked down in stores. I even bought a big Fern, not realizing I picked the wrong plant. I wanted a hanging, got a ground 10” Kimberly Que (Nephrolepis). It took two of us to repot it. Then I had to learn about it, remember them from my childhood days and my grandmother had them. But, I live in a Senior Living Community, in a two bedroom Deuplex. No place to put it, all sunlight front and back, so brought in house, put in a big plastic pad. Now what do I do?. Do I trim out all the dead branches that are dropping leaves all around it? There are tall, straight pieces that have curls on the ends all around the plant, I assume that is new pieces. Should it have more water, the top soil is dry. Sun or no sun? Crazy aren’t I?? I’m 81, live alone, can take care of my home an etc., love plants, always had plants at my home before, but sure not having luck here! Can you help me in any way??
Thursday 20th of August 2020
Hi Harriett! The key with ferns is to keep them evenly moist. They don't like to dry out at all. If they dry out a lot, you'll get a lot of brown fronds. Try to keep the soil evenly moist. As far as light, place it by a window that gets plenty of light, but not too much sun. Some morning sun would be beneficial. The key is to keep an eye on the soil so that it doesn't dry out. You can cut off any growth that has completely browned. Hope this helps!