Should You Water Orchids With Ice Cubes?

Person watering a pink orchid plant with ice cubes

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Orchids are currently the top-selling potted flowering plant in the United States because of their beauty, long flower life, and compact growth, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When it comes to caring for them, proper irrigation is essential to growing a healthy orchid—which is where watering with ice cubes comes in.

It's an age-old trick to water orchids with ice cubes, and many times, care labels on orchid plants will list this as the watering method. Some growers recommend using ice cubes to make sure you are irrigating your orchid plant properly. Should you use ice cubes? Experts say yes—and here's why.

Why Ice Cubes Work Well for Orchids

Think of ice cubes as premeasured irrigation for orchids. Using ice cubes reduces the likelihood of over- or underwatering the plants. Overwatering or letting the pot sit in water will damage the roots, and underwatering damages the roots and the leaves and affects bloom production. So, the ice cubes melt slowly and the water moves slowly through the bark media. The slow trickle allows more water to be absorbed by the bark and the roots instead of pooling at the bottom of the pot.

Some horticulturists once expressed concern about the frozen water causing damage to the orchid root system and causing blooms to fade quickly, but that has since been debunked. A study published in the journal of the American Society of Horticultural Science showed no ill effects from using ice cubes to water potted orchids.

The six-month study was conducted with moth orchids (Phalaenopsis). A control group was watered with three ice cubes once a week while another control group was watered weekly with the equivalent amount of water. Both groups remained healthy but the convenience of using ice cubes was clearly noted. While the trial was only conducted with moth orchids, other types of orchids can also be watered with ice cubes.

Materials needed to water an orchid with ice cubes

The Spruce / Michele Lee

How to Water Orchids With Ice Cubes

  1. Set a Schedule

    To prevent overwatering, pick a day of the week to water your orchids. Most orchids require irrigation just once per week. Variables that can affect moisture levels are room temperature, light, humidity levels, and the type of growing media used in the pot. Always check the moisture level of the pot before doing any watering. Stick your finger about an inch down into the bark or moss. If it feels damp, wait a day or so to water.

    Setting a watering schedule for an orchid

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  2. Use the Right Number of Ice Cubes

    For a 5 to 6-inch pot, place three ice cubes on top of the bark. Three ice cubes equal about one-fourth cup of water. For larger containers, increase the number of ice cubes to match the size of the pot.

    To determine if your orchid plant is receiving the right amount of moisture, examine the roots. Vibrant green roots are getting the water they need. If the roots have a silver sheen, more moisture is required. Wrinkled, limp leaves are another sign that the plant is not getting enough water.


    To protect surfaces, always keep a saucer under any type of plant. However, if there is water standing in the saucer under your orchid, empty it immediately. Orchid roots do not thrive in standing water.

    Choosing the correct number of ice cubes to use for watering an orchid

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  • What is the best way to water an orchid?

    The best way to water an orchid is to make sure you are not over- or underwatering. Always water from the top of the pot and use a potting media that provides good drainage. While accounting for variations in temperature and humidity, most orchids in 5 to 6-inch pots require just one-fourth cup of water each week or three ice cubes.

  • How do you water plants with ice cubes?

    Using ice cubes to water orchids is a simple way to prevent overwatering because they melt slowly allowing the roots to absorb the moisture. Simply place the three cubes on top of the moss or bark media in the pot. Do not place the ice cubes on top of the orchid leaves.

  • How often should I water my orchids?

    Most orchids require only weekly watering. The potting media should feel dry to the touch. Always check the color of the roots (they should be bright green) and the moisture level of the pot before doing any watering. Stick your finger about an inch down into the bark or moss. If it feels damp, wait a day or so to water.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. 2016 Floriculture crops 2015 summary. U.S. Department of Agriculture

  2. Ice Cube Irrigation of Potted Phalaenopsis Orchids in Bark Media Does Not Decrease Display LifeHortScience