There is a lot of debate amongst orchid growers about the use of ice as a method for watering Phalaenopsis orchids. In the hot weather it may seem like a great idea. Many growers I have spoken to literally cringe when you ask them about this watering method, because there is a risk the plant will not tolerate the freezing temperatures of the water. I’d like to share my experience of using ice on my orchids.
At the beginning of my orchid growing journey, I had stumbled across this method of watering my Phalaenopsis. At the time, there were only three Phalaenopsis in my collection, and two of them were in good sized pots. Working full time and wanting to care for my orchids with minimal fuss, this method sounded like a great idea. The concept is simple: place three ice cubes onto the top of the growing media in the morning and by the time you get home, the ice has melted and your orchids have been watered. Hassle free. Well…except getting the ice cubes out of the freezer.
I used this method for about a month before I found a few videos on YouTube that advocated against using ice. The argument was that Phalaenopsis prefer warm temperatures, and placing ice cubes in their pots could shock the root system, and the plant could deteriorate.
Providing your orchids with the best growing conditions you can will help your plant to grow as strong and healthy as possible. In their natural environments i.e. tropical rainforests, they do not have access to ice cubes. The temperatures do not even get to a point where water could be considered cold. This reasoning made sense to me so I stopped using ice. All of my Phalaenopsis orchids are now given tepid water, even in the summer.
However, I wanted to add my thoughts into this argument, as I find orchid growers are usually divided into two categories; those that think it is a great idea to use ice, and those that don’t (the latter is, in my experience, the most popular).
Whilst I will not use ice on my orchids now, and would not advocate that people should, I found that those three orchids came to no significant harm when I did use ice. I think this was mainly because I took care not to place the ice cubes directly onto roots, and let the ice sit on the growing media instead. But, I do think that using ice had some effect on their growing rate. One of the orchids didn’t really grow much, until I started to use tepid tap water and at an increased rate. This again makes sense; in the winter when temperatures are generally cooler, orchids do slow their growth rate. It might be that using ice triggered this change, but it is difficult to be sure.
My argument for not using ice is “why take the risk?”. All of my orchids are special to me, and I would rather give them care that will enable them to grow the best that they can. That does not mean that you cannot use ice, if you want to water your orchids in this way, that’s your choice. I would add though, should you notice your plant is not growing the way it could, you may want to check if adding ice is best for that orchid.