I was eating lunch at a local seafood shack the other day, and noticed an orchid languishing on the window ledge. Orchid lover that I am, I picked up the pot to take a closer look. There were two brown, dead spikes, and the plant, a Phalaenopsis, was very, very dry.
I mentioned to the owner that if she wanted to keep this plant alive, she would have to give it a lot more water, and she replied that she had been following the directions on the tag that came with the plant. These instructions were for a “Just Add Ice” orchid, and they called for placing three ice cubes per week on the potting medium and letting them melt, thereby watering the plant. In the case of this Phal, it was obvious that three ice cubes per week were nowhere near enough. The leaves were starting to shrivel, and the pot was light as a feather. And, like all houseplants, orchids HATE ice cold water.
Having never heard of “Just Add Ice” orchids, I got on the Internet and found the company’s website. There was plenty of information on how to grow the plants, and even a forum where “Just Add Ice” owners would write in with their questions. I must say that most of the questions I read involved bud and flower drop – probably involving plants that were extremely thirsty!
The best way to water a Phalaenopsis is to bring it to the sink and water it well, allowing the excess to run out through the bottom of the pot. The plant should never sit IN water, because the roots will rot. I usually water mine about once a week unless it is very hot, in which case I water more often.
I suggested to the Phal owner in the restaurant that she water it well in the sink, and she did so immediately. It seems that like so many of today’s gardening techniques, “ice watering” is more about convenience than proper culture.