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Should You Water Your Plants with Ice Cubes?

"Can you water plants with Ice Cubes?"

In most cases, if you want to, you absolutely can water your houseplants with ice cubes. But, you probably don't need to. It can be a hassle setting it all up and could damage certain indoor plants in the long term.

That's the simple answer.

The rest of this article looks at the issues surrounding this interesting watering technique hack. Read on so you can decide if using ice cubes is right for you (and your plant!).

Ice Cubes around the stems of a Lady Palm houseplant

The ice cube method of watering can prevent too much water from surrounding the roots of houseplants.

What's the thinking behind it?

The main reason people use ice cubes to water their plants is that it helps them get the right amount of water to their houseplants in a controlled and measured way.

We get it. You've just got a brand new plant and you want to care for it properly. If you spend even half an hour reading about Plant Care 101, you'll know that overwatering can be a big problem.

Further reading -
Are you overwatering your plants? - The Signs to look out for

So the ice cube trick is a simple solution that provides a safe way to prevent overwatering, by stopping excess water from gathering around the roots. This helps keep root rot away and your plants healthy and happy.

Does using ice cubes actually work?

In principle, it does work. The ice melts, turning into water which then gently soaks into the growing medium and delivers moisture directly to the plant's roots at a steady pace so they get enough water.

Understandably, you may be worried about the use of ice cubes and the effects of cold water, especially on sensitive plants.

Ohio State University experimented with using ice cubes to water orchids and concluded that the practice had “no detrimental effects” on the health of the plants.

There are even companies selling a range of houseplants with the tag line "Just add Ice." Instructing you to add a certain number of ice cubes to the top of the soil every week.

In reality though, using a fixed way to water your plants will give varied results. Nicole from Sunnysideup ran her own five month experiment using the "Just add Ice" instructions and you can see how she got on below.

Nicole from Sunnysideup runs her own experiments to see if this is the best way to water houseplants.

The conclusions Nicole finds mirror our own experiences. Yes, ice cubes as a form of regular watering provide a measured way to water your houseplants, and it does work. But you have to adapt it to the needs of your plants.

Plants in your home will never perform long term if you attempt to use fixed and ridged ways of looking after them.

Every home is different and every plant will have different needs. For example, an Orchid in a large container growing in a warm room is going to need much more water than a smaller plant in winter.

Using ice cubes to water plants does work, but using a set amount each and every week won't.

When is it a GOOD idea to water with ice cubes?

Okay. So you're sold on the idea or maybe you're intrigued and want to know when using ice cubes instead of reaching for the watering can is a good idea. Let's look at some good times to use ice and why it can be helpful.

Three frozen ice cubes on a wooden floor

Large ice cubes can hold a lot of water and, once fully melted, could give your plant a thorough watering.

  • When access to the plant is tricky.
    If your houseplant is in an awkward position somewhere in your home, slipping a couple of ice cubes into the pot can make watering it much more manageable.

    Plants with not much space above the pot itself can make tilting a watering can difficult or even cause a spillage on the surface below. This could be high up hanging plants or those sitting on top of tall cupboards or wardrobes.
  • If the potting mix is very free draining.
    The ice cube idea originated with Moth Orchids. The potting medium for an Orchid plant is very free draining, because it's mainly made of coarse bark. Water will just run through it and out of the drainage holes.

    Running it under the tap might mean all the water runs out the bottom of the pot before any of it can be absorbed. The slowly melting ice cubes ensures a constant supply of moisture to the roots until the cubes have gone.
  • You've asked an inexperienced friend or family member to watch your houseplants.
    Leaving your houseplants in someone else's care while you go on holiday can be worrying. Even more so if they're a self-confessed black thumb.

    Instructing them to provide a certain number of ice cubes around your plants keeps it stupidly simple. This is an effective way to ensure they're not overwatered and they should tick over nicely until you return from your vacation.

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When is it a BAD idea to water with ice cubes?

There are some occasions where we wouldn't recommend using ice cubes around the base of your plant.

Ice touching the roots of this houseplant

Cold temperatures caused by the ice being in direct contact, could negatively effect the health of the plant.

  • When the ice cubes are touching the plant's roots or stems.
    Your houseplants might be able to deal with cold water seeping through the soil, but it won't thank you if the ice is pressing directly against the stem or visible roots.

    In the previous photo you can see the cube up against the main stem and the roots. You're risking some freeze damage if you do anything like this.
  • If you have a cold sensitive plant.
    Don't risk it, if you have a tropical plant that's temperamental or loves cozy conditions. The ice cubes will lower the temperature and could even shock it with the extreme temperature of ice.
  • If you're only doing it because the label is telling you too.
    Earlier in this article, we talked about how you need to provide the right amount of water for your plant, otherwise it's going to end up under watered. The "just add ice" idea is interesting, but it won't work long term.

    The best tip we can give you is to ignore these labels. Instead, find your plant in our profile hub, scroll down to it's watering needs and follow those instructions.

My opinion and recommendation

The Ohio State University study we linked to earlier as well as hundreds of people's anecdotal stories on Social Media, like users on Instagram and Reddit, agree with my personal experience: There has been no (obvious) negative effects from using ice cubes as a way to water houseplants.

How do I water Moth Orchids?
During routine watering maintenance of Orchids I'll simply run the entire plant under the tap for a minute or two over the sink.

If the potting mix is completely dry I'll soak the pot in a bowl of water for five minutes.

But when there is a discussion about it, someone will always point out that surely it's a hassle and involves extra steps to freeze the water in the first place. I couldn't agree more.

This is primarily why I'll only use ice cubes very occasionally, such as when it's advantageous to do so.

In the majority of cases, I'll just follow the "traditional way" by using a watering can with room temperature water. I'd recommend this to all plant parents because it's reliable and ultimately a better and easier way to get the job done.

If you disagree or have a different take on the matter, let me know in the comments below.



About the Author

Tom Knight

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years, Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the .

Also on Ourhouseplants.com


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