Where did the practice of using ice cubes to water plants come from? Who’s doing this, putting a few ice cubes in a pot of poinsettias and calling that watering? I’m not even going to do an online search for this because if I find that someone is recommending this, it might send me over the edge.
Today at work I walked into a front office area, I saw a wilted poinsettia plant, crying out for help.
Co-worker: “Carol, what’s wrong with this plant?” (They know I’m a gardener and I wouldn’t turn my back on a plant in need.)
Me: “It needs water.” (I would have known that even without a degree in horticulture.)
Co-worker: “No it doesn’t. Feel the soil, it’s damp.” (They would question me?)
I felt the top of the soil and it was indeed slightly damp. Then I pulled the plant, rootball and all, out of the pot, quite dramatically and confidentally. As I suspected, the bottom three-fourths was as dry as dust.
Co-worker: “I don’t understand, ‘so-and-so’ puts ice cubes on it every day.”
Ice cubes? To water indoor plants? Think about it, how much water is in a cube of ice? Not very much. This plant was simply not getting enough water.
I proceeded to pick off all the dead leaves and bracts and told my co-worker to go water the poinsettia in a sink until the water came out the bottom of the pot.
That’s how plants should be watered. Thoroughly.
Ice cubes… sheesh…
(The poinsettia above is from Garfield Park Conservatory. It isn’t really sitting in water. It’s on a pedestal that’s in the water. I know they water these plants properly!)
I have to admit that my husband waters one of our houseplants (a pothos inherited from his mother) with icecubes. We’ve had it for at least 5 years and it just soldiers on. I’m afraid if I actually paid attention to it (repot, fertilize, water adequately, etc.) it would die.
I’ve never heard this about watering with ice cubes. Very interesting. And funny, kind of an afterthought method of watering -“oh I have some ice left in my drink, I’ll just pop it into the plant.”
carol – i’ve never heard of this! maybe you could remind your coworkers that they give ice chips to hospital patients who they DON’T want to have any ACTUAL water.
And here I always worry about the water being too cold for the poor roots…
Isn’t that crazy?
I admit I’ve done that on occasion usually with “outdoor” plants and not with my house plants because I know it isn’t an effective way of watering and the cold water will shock the roots.
You did your good deed and saved a plant AND educated someone about proper houseplant watering. You are the superheroine of your workplace. Really.
Colleen Vanderlinden says
LOL You know, I know I’ve seen that tip on HGTV. I know I have! I just wish I could remember who recommended it 🙂
I’m sure the poinsettia was relieved to get a real drink of water!
Lisa at Greenbow says
I too have seen this method of watering discussed on tv. I think I have even read it someplace. I always thought it was an odd thing to do. Who wants cold feet?
This reminds me that I should give all my indoor plants a good watering. Excuse me I must go…
What would you do if you were in a hotel room miles from home and had a lot of plants to take care of for the next couple of days? This is what I faced at the GWA symposium.
The trade show opened on Friday night. Of course, everyone picks up as many free plants as they can the first night, because they don’t want to miss out on any of the good ones. Between my roommate and I, we had enough starts in small pots to line our entire hotel room window.
Our days were scheduled from sunup (well, 7am) to 9pm. We didn’t have time to water each plant individually in the bathroom sink. Instead, my roommate, a veteran of these events, got ice from the machine in hallway and put some on the soil of each plant that seemed dry.
This is the only situation I can really see using ice cubes. These did not have a lot of soil. Many of them were closer to well rooted cuttings. We wanted them to stay in the sun and get watered at the same time. And it was temporary. After their ride home in the spare suitcase I had brought just for this purpose, they got a thorough watering–and a repotting for those that didn’t go in the ground.
I agree, I have seen this on HGTV, but I believe it was for summer, and maybe for when you were going out of town. I remember the lady that said it, just not her name (sorry, guys). If my kids drop an ice cube on the floor, I used to tell them to put it in a plant, but that was to not waste the water, not a method of actually watering the plant!
I’ve never heard of using ice cubes for watering either – ice water is just unfriendly – even we human people absorb warm water more readily! I’m sure that poor poinsettia is much happier under your green thumb. Carol, I’ve posted my GBBD pics a little early – find them here: (if I can make html work…) Blithewold
Pam @ Digging says:
I’ve heard of the ice-cube watering system, and it sounded daffy to me too. It would take a lot of ice to really water a plant, and that might freeze the stem to death.
My Bloom Day post is up a day early too, but I’ll “renotify” you tomorrow.
Ice cubes are better then what my co-workers did to my poinsettia! I came in after a week off and I found my poinsettia extreamly wilted that I HAD in the office. Well, they thought they were doing a good thing by watering it with soup, coffee, soda and everything else so they wouldnt have to dump thier leftovers in a sink! It was so nasty and killed the plant…it was floating in a stinky concoction of nastyness!!!
Well, after much deliberation on my part…I decided to comment.
I’m a Poinsettia killer. Year after year. One survived in my summer garden once, however.
Yes, I’m one of “those” who watered my poinsettias with ice :o/
There’s something I had never heard of…doesn’t the low temperature of the ice cubes hurt the plants roots? And besides…,isn’t it a lot easier to just water the plant with…how should I say this…plain water?
I think soggy soil kills almost as many poinsettias as overly dry soil. Folks leave the foil on the plant and keep watering it and the foil holds the water in. The roots rot. The plant wilts.
Punch holes in the foil and put the pot on a saucer. Better yet water in the sink when the soil dries out.
I love those plants outside the hotel lobby where they fertilize the soil with cigarette butts. ;-7
Heh…I’ll take my poinsettia “straight up”, thanks! 😉
Chigiy at Gardener’s Anonymous said:
There is a Steven Wright joke that goes like this: “I like to torture my plants. I water them with ice cubes.”
Okay so I actually googled this exact topic “watering with ice” and am now quite discouraged. So all you expert gardeners out and especially May, how about some advice for a city dweller? I live in Baltimore, where the city is trying to increase the tree canopy, and have been enlisted to help water some newly planted trees near my children’s school. It gets quite hot in the summer and we have had multiple summers of drought which makes tough conditions for baby trees. There is no near water supply. Just setting up the multiple hoses and getting the water turned on can take 30 minutes. I WAS hoping that dumping an entire store-sized bag of ice on the tree base in the early morning of a typical 90 + degree day would be an easy viable solution (and not torturem for me or the tree….). What do you think?
Just to let you know, in our biology class we grew pea plants and watered them with ice cubes. And so far they are doing awesome!!!
I have some plants on top of a very nice piece of furniture. I've had some problems with getting water on the furniture when I (or my kids) accidentally got just a tiny bit too much water in the pot, and it overflowed. I started watering with ice cubes. Plants are happy, and no more overflow onto the furniture. Works great!
This technique is also ideal for indoor hanging plants, since they absorb the water as it melts. No overflow onto the floor.
Not all plants, but plants that need less water like violets and orchids. Keeps from over watering them. Poinsettia are a plant that needs more water and have heavier roots, so no, ice cubes are not a good choice for them.