How to water orchids - and, no, you shouldn't use an ice cube

Take the guesswork out of your watering

White room with yellow dresser, pink orchid, basket storage and plant
(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

When it comes to houseplant care we're asked about how to water orchids probably more than just about anything else. This elegant flower is a style staple but has a reputation for being rather tricky to look after - especially when it comes to their hydration.

In terms of how to care for orchids, as with most plants, water is one of the most important elements to be aware of. And in their Goldilocks-fashion, both too much and too little just won't cut it.

'To successfully keep orchids, it’s important to understand how to water them properly,' adds Fiona Jenkins, landscaper and gardening expert for 'This helps the plants to grow and thrive, reducing the risk of overwatering and potentially harming the orchid.'

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The Speckled Orchid | was £35.00, now £28.00 at Bloom & Wild

If you're looking for an easy-to-care-for orchid option then this pretty purple choice is worth a look. Your new flowering plant comes with the ceramic pot included, too.

How to water orchids

Pink orchid in large glass vase on outdoor wooden table

(Image credit: Future PLC)

When it comes to how to water orchids, one of the most important things to know is that you should be very careful with excess water.

'Be careful not to let water sit on the plant between the leaves and the stem as this can cause root rot - dry with a tissue if necessary,' explains Fiona. 'Misting your orchid is not necessary as water on the leaves can encourage bacterial or fungal disease.'

'However, you can sit your orchid pot on a shallow dish filled with stones and some water,' continues Fiona. 'As the water evaporates it will humidify the air around the orchid. A plug-in humidifier will do a similar job and you can be set to maximise the best conditions for your orchids.'

'Orchids are tropical plants, which means they love humidity,' echoes Suzie Woolley, head of plants at Serenata Flowers. 'They will do well in a steamy bathroom.'

Headshot of gardening expert Fiona Jenkins
Fiona Jenkins

Fiona is a UK-based landscaper with over twenty five years of experience in the industry. As a gardening expert, Fiona offers her expert advice to MyJobQuote's tradespeople and homeowners.

Your orchid care starter kit

How often should you water orchids?

Bathroom windowsill with white orchid in metal pot beside storage jars

(Image credit: Future PLC/Sussie Bell)

Similarly with watering succulents, there are a range of factors which come into play to affecting how often you'll need to remind yourself how to water orchids.

'The frequency of watering can vary depending on factors such as the type of orchid, the potting medium used, the temperature, humidity, and the amount of light the orchid receives,' elaborates Jack Sutcliffe, co-founder of Yorkshire-based shed manufacturer, Power Sheds.

'As a general guideline, most orchids should be watered about once a week,' continues Jack. 'However, it's always best to observe the plant and adjust the watering schedule accordingly.'

'The best way to determine if your orchid needs to be watered is to check the potting medium,' explains gardening expert Fiona. 'This will typically be bark or sphagnum moss. Bark allows good drainage and oxygen circulation while sphagnum moss holds more water so is ideal for young orchids.'

'Whichever medium is used, it should be moist but not soggy,' says Fiona. 'But your finger or a wooden skewer into the potting mix to test how damp it is. Even if the surface of the potting medium is dry the roots may still be hydrated so it’s important to check to a depth of around 2-3 cm.'

How much water does an orchid need?

White room with yellow dresser, pink orchid, basket storage and plant

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Just as how it can help you know when to water your orchids, to figure out the amount of watering you should be doing it's best to check the plant itself.

'The thin membrane on the orchid roots is called valemen and it absorbs water rapidly,' explains gardening expert Fiona. 'If it is silvery white the orchid is dry while if it is green the plant doesn’t require watering. It’s always better to lean toward underwatering an orchid rather than overwatering which can damage your plant. An overwatered orchid will develop yellow leaves and brown roots.'

'When watering your orchid, the potting medium should be thoroughly dampened,' continues Fiona 'The best way to achieve this for bark potting mediums this is to fill the planter until it is almost full. Leave it for ten minutes or less and then allow any excess water to drain away. Leaving the water to soak in for about 10 minutes is important as at first the bark will repel the water. However, it will gradually absorb it to hydrate the orchid’s roots.'

'For an orchid in sphagnum moss, pour water into the container until it starts to flow out of the drainage holes,' says Fiona. 'Make sure the container is evenly watered, regardless of potting medium so all roots are hydrated.'

What time of the day should you water orchids?

Mid-century room with painted brick wall, wooden sideboard and houseplants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

Just as the amount and the method for how to water orchids is rather specific, it turns out they even have a preference for the time of day (divas).

'Water your orchid early in the morning so that any excess moisture on the leaves or in the crown can dry out during the day,' advises Jack from Power Sheds. 'This helps prevent the growth of fungi or bacteria that can harm  the plant.'

What type of water do orchids like?

Tiled windowsill with two potted orchids

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

So, if orchids are that picky does it matter what type of water you should use? Well, yes, to a point. But, don't worry, you don't have to go breaking out the Evian.

'Rainwater is best for orchids as it doesn’t have the chemicals that tap water contains,' says Fiona. With the current trend for harvesting rainwater, you may already have a supply for this set up.

'Although tap water is fine, as long as it hasn’t been softened. The temperature of the water should be around the same as the room the plant is in. Very cold water is not good for orchids.'

Should you water your orchids with ice cubes?

Purple orchid on sideboard by mirror and wall light

(Image credit: Future PLC)

One method many of us have heard over the years is to place an ice cube on your orchid and treat it as a slow watering hack. However, some things are too easy to be true.

'Some people advise on watering orchids with ice cubes as they believe that it simplifies the watering routine, but we suggest that you use room temperature water when watering most plants as water too cold can shock the roots, so this too is a risk with using ice cubes,' warns Suzie from Seranata Flowers.

'It may be easy and convenient and also helps prevent overwatering, however, this can also lead to underwatering,' adds Jack from Power Shed. 

All in all, your orchid will tell you what it needs - you just need to know what to look for. They may sound tricky, but once you've cracked how to water orchids you'll be well on your way to ensuring beautiful blooms for years to come.

Thea Babington-Stitt
Managing Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Managing Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for around 10 years.

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.