There is this somewhat common misconception that orchids are difficult to grow at home. If you’ve embraced this notion in the past, you might be surprised to hear that orchids are relatively easy to grow in pots indoors. You just have to be mindful of a few important factors.
The potting medium and surrounding indoor conditions can affect the general watering strategy for your orchid plants.
There are even some orchid enthusiasts who claim that the best way to water orchids ice cubes. If so you might be wondering if you Should you water orchids with ice cubes?
To effectively answer this question we need to look at some of the important factors that contribute to developing an effective orchid watering strategy. This includes things like the state of the potting medium, the relative humidity, and your comfort level with handling the plants.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the things that influence an orchid’s watering needs, to help you decide if an ice cube watering strategy is right for you and how to water orchids with ice cubes.
Understanding An Orchid’s Watering Needs
The somewhat fickle nature of an orchid’s watering needs has generated some debate and inventiveness.
Technically and orchid’s roots prefer to be watered and then allowed to nearly fully dry out, before watering again.
Overly wet roots are prone to root rot, fungal diseases, and other conditions, which could cause the plant to die.
How Do I Know If My Orchid Needs To Be Watered?
With most plants there is no hard and fast answer to the exact number of days between watering sessions.
The conventional wisdom is not to water the orchid if there is any moisture in the pot. You can get a basic idea of the moisture level by gently sticking your finger into the pot.
It’s also a good idea to lift the pot to check if there is any excess moisture in the tray or drainage holes.
Another option is to “Lift” the orchid’s root mass out of the pot. However, this takes a careful hand and a little bit of practice.If the pot and soil are indeed dry, you can move on to the basic watering process.
Are Ice Cubes Too Cold For Watering Orchids?
The warm jungles of the orchid’s natural environment seem counter-intuitive for watering the plants with ice.
The prevailing wisdom is that they prefer warm conditions, and most of the forests they grow in every experience anything as cold as ice or even ice water.
Yet there are many orchid enthusiasts who insist that ice cubes are the best way to water these tropical plants.
To understand their point, we’ll need to take a closer look at the benefits of ice cube watering.
What Are The Benefits Of Watering Orchids With Ice Cubes?
Ice cubes prevent overwatering, Watering orchids with ice cubes give you a perfect volumetric measurement every time. There’s no guesswork, which reduces the chances of accidentally over-watering and all the complications it brings. Secondly, the orchid’s roots will benefit from the slow release of water that occurs in the orchid’s naturally warm environment. This further helps reduce the risk of root rot by allowing the orchid’s roots to take up the water it needs when it wants.
There are also many orchid enthusiasts who believe that slightly cooler temperatures encourage the plant to produce additional blooms.
With some varieties, it might also encourage them to bloom for longer.
How Often Should You Water An Orchid With Ice Cubes?
The prevailing wisdom is that you should water with ice cubes once a week. Though you should still make sure to check the soil to ensure that it is indeed properly dry. The last thing you want to do is put the plant at risk for water-logged root rot problems!
How Many Ice Cubes Does My Orchid Plant Need?
The answer to this question can vary depending on the size of the plant itself. Most of the time you can give a small orchid a single ice cube, once per week. When it comes to larger orchids, you may need to use two ice cubes a week.
The ambient warmth of the room will then gradually melt the ice cubes. This essentially mimics the type of slow drips of moisture the plant would receive in the natural environment of a moist tropical forest.
Attempt To Mimic Moisture Of An Orchid's Natural Environment
Orchids are members of the Phalaenopsis family. This essentially means that in nature they grow on trees rather than in the ground.
Orchids also prefer warm climates and relatively high humidity. This can impact the type of moisture and the temperature of the moisture they receive.
Does Orchid Potting Medium Affect How They Are Watered?
It’s an interesting botanical fact that members of the Phalenopsis genus do not grow in actual soil. The truth is they need a fair amount of air around their roots.
One of the best ways to mimic this is to use an orchid potting medium that is very much like sphagnum moss.
While some orchids come with roots packed in sphagnum, it is not the ideal medium for growing orchids.
In fact, there are many horticulturalists who argue that sphagnum moss will kill an orchid as it doesn’t absorb water consistently.
You end up with areas that are overly dry and overly wet, which orchids typically don’t like.
Temperature And Humidity Can Affect How Often An Orchid Needs To Be Watered
As long as an orchid is kept between 65 to 80 degrees, temperature won’t be a major factor in water.
Just bear in mind that an orchid that is close to a heat vent might dry out faster than normal. At the same time, humidity can also be a major factor impacting an orchid’s watering needs.
Yet it can be hard to know just how much humidity there is in the surrounding air. An indoor “Weather Station” or a “Humidity Meter” will help you get a better idea of the ambient humidity in the room where you keep your orchids.
With most, you can set the meter right next to the pot and within 10 minutes it will adjust to tell you the conditions right up by the flower itself.
Depending on the variety orchids need 50 to 70% relative humidity, which might be challenging in a northern winter.
If you are having trouble keeping the orchid at 55% humidity or higher, you should consider adding a humidifier.
Should I Mist My Orchids?
There is some debate about the value of misting. Some orchid hobbyists insist that misting their plants helps provide them with the type of humidity that they would experience in their natural environment.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are individuals who note that mist on the foliage and surface soil increases the chances of fungal infection and other plant borne illnesses.
This might be even more of a threat if your home has had an indoor mold problem in the past.
What Is The Most Common Way To Water An Orchid Plant?
If you can lift the orchid out of the pot, you can quickly and carefully move it to another pot or a large bowl filled with warm water.
Give it five to seven minutes for the soil and roots to absorb the water, and then transfer it back to the original pot.
If the plant is overly root bound, you might want to “Pot It Up” to a larger container with fresh soil medium.
The goal is to avoid getting water on the crown or leaves of the plant. If you do, you will need to lightly pat them dry with a clean paper towel.
If you don’t feel confident lifting the orchid, you can slowly water it from the edges of the pot. Stop watering when you see water emerging from the pot’s drainage holes.
Of all their basic care needs, watering one of the most important and can be one of the more challenging aspects of successfully growing orchids.
This is probably part of the fuel adding to the heated debate about the best watering method.
There are certainly strong opinions at every point along the spectrum. One of the nice things about watering with ice cubes is that you can give it a try and see if it works for you.
It’s certainly less labor-intensive than lifting the orchid and risking damage to the root mass. Yet it also doesn’t have the guesswork of saturating the potting medium and simply hoping for the best.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.
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