The idea of watering the houseplants with ice cubes took over the internet a few years back. Since then, this idea has always been bugging me. Recently I went all out to intensely research on this matter. Here I lay out everything I came to know on this topic.
Is Cold Water Bad for Plants?
Houseplants are extremely sensitive to the temperature of water used for watering. The roots of most plants are susceptible to extremes of temperatures and find it hard to cope up with these extremities. Hence the plant can go under immediate stress for the time being.
The roots of most plants are comfortable in absorbing water from the soil that ranges around 20 degrees Celcius. The pump mechanism in the roots that facilitate water absorption works best around this temperature range only. Under conditions of extreme cold, the pump does not work effectively as a result the efficiency of water absorption along with other nutrients decreases (source).
Is it Okay to Water Succulents with Ice Cubes?
The best way to encourage the growth of any houseplant is to provide them with conditions that closely resemble their habitat.
Almost all the succulents belong from drought-prone areas that have high temperatures and dry weather. Rain is often times scarce in these areas and when it rains it pours. However, the temperature of that rain never falls under the freezing point. The temperature of the rain depends upon:
- The air temperature of the upper atmosphere
- What Season it is
- Time of the day
- Particular location
Roughly the temperature ranges between 0-27 degrees Celcius (source).
Hence watering succulents with ice cubes which has a temperature of below 0-degree Celcius, is by no means a great idea as it can expose the succulent to undue stress. This can surely be a risky thing to do and the symptoms of stress will be more evident in the longer run.
Reasons Why you should Never water succulents with Ice cubes
Succulents love a Quick Drenching
- In the drought-prone areas, it rarely rains. However, when the rain occurs, it drenches everything. You should try to water your succulents exactly in the same way as well. Succulents are sensitive to overwatering so only water them when the potting soil feels dry.
- Water once in 5-9 days. Whenever you water makes sure you completely drench the potting soil and dont stop watering until water comes flowing out of the drainage holes.
- Using ice cubes will never drench the soil and slowly wets the soil. Succulents dont like that process of watering and because of this same reason, misting is not suggested as a means of watering grown succulents.
Succulents Hate Damp soil
- It”s roots are highly sensitive to root rot under wet conditions. High moisture in the soil is a surefire way to kill them.
- Ice cubes melt gradually depending on your local weather and go on keeping the soil moist for days. This is not a healthy thing to do as the chances of acquiring fungal infections by the roots get quite high under such conditions.
Succulents are “easy to care for” plants
- The ice cube method came into the picture in order to save the headache of watering plants on a daily basis.
- However, succulents are itself low maintenance plants that only need to be watered maximum once in a week. So caring for succulents is quite easy in comparison with tropical plants. So there won’t be any benefit of practicing the ice cube method even theoretically.
The Succulent can Start Showing Signs of Stress:
Sooner or later owing to getting exposed to cold water on a weekly basis, the plant will lose its vibrancy and won’t grow as jovially as it would under conditions of using water of room temperature. This is the same reason why it is best to bring succulent indoors during winter as most succulents are not tolerant of cold temperatures.
What does Exposure to Coldwater do to Plants?
- In the very beginning, you won’t notice any significant changes. Succulents are quite adaptive plants and they try their best to cope with the conditions provided.
- Also as the soil water temperature is decreasing for a few hours and then going back to room temperature, it won’t instantly end up damaging the plant.
However, if you keep this up for months, the succulent will end up showing signs of stress. Succulents mostly grow in warm places where rain temperature is not icy cold. So it is kind of meaningless to water them with ice cubes as the cold ice water will put the roots under conditions of shock and slowly this can lead to permanent damage to the roots.
- Also If you use ice cubes, the soil will be wet for a long time than it would if it was drenched all at once. So this will encourage the growth of fungal gnats and can lead to root rot.
All these further will impact the succulent significantly, premature fall of leaves and branches will be seen followed with various color changes of the plant parts.
Should you Experiment with Watering your Succulents with Ice cubes?
You can always go ahead and experiment with watering your succulents with ice cubes at your own risk.
- The immediate drawback to this process is you won’t be able to determine whether your plant likes it or dislikes it instantly.
- It can take some time for the effects of the stress to show. It can be weeks or it can be months or even in some cases if you are lucky maybe the succulent won’t show any signs of stress at all.
There have been instances where people have claimed that using ice cubes have not affected their succulents in any way. On the contrary, there are plant experts, horticulturists, and many other succulent lovers who think this is a bizarre idea that should never be tried in the first place.
For example, as per Becky Brinkman, manager of the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Fuqua Orchid Center, using ice cubes to water orchids is a sure-fire way to kill them over time. So this is necessarily true for all succulents and most other houseplants also.
There is no doubt there is a high probability that things can go wrong and there is always a chance factor. You will be playing with the risk of shocking your plant on a weekly basis and killing it off slowly.
So try to avoid experimenting with ice cubes and stick with the normal process of watering the succulents.
So How should you Water Succulents?
- Always Make sure that the soil is dry: Succulents are highly sensitive to overwatering. They absolutely hate moist soil. So before watering make sure the potting soil is dry with the help of a moisture meter. You can also deepen your finger and judge the soil dampness. if in doubt hold back, dont water. They can put up with underwatering but not overwatering.
- Use a Succulent Friendly Water sprinkler: Avoid using spraying bottles as succulents love the soil to be drenched. Always avoid watering the leaves, and branches and always target the stem base and adjacent soil. Water absorption happens through roots. A proper water sprinkler will provide you with more control so that you dont end up wetting the upper plant parts which further can invite fungal infections.
- Try using water free of unwanted minerals and salts: Avoid using tap water as it is rich in unwanted chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, chloramine, etc which accumulate in the soil and stunt the growth of the plant. Read this post on how to use tap water without harming succulents and other alternatives you can use.
- The ideal time of the day for Watering succulents: You should not water your succulents whenever you want. Watering after the afternoon runs the risk of letting the moist soil stay moist for the whole night with no sunlight exposure. As succulents dislike soil moisture, abiding with this practice, in the long run, can end up harming the plant. Try to get done with watering in the morning before the sun gets truly up. Read this post for figuring out the best time of watering succulents in the day.
Using ice cubes for watering succulents is undoubtedly an adventurous experiment to conduct. But the price you have to pay if things go wrong is pretty dam high. I personally feel plants are also living beings so we should never try to experiment with something that may end up killing it slowly. Succulents by default have very low caring needs. Just water them once in 5 to 10 days and they will be good to go.
So What do you think about this subject of using ice cubes for watering your succulents? Let me know in the comments!