Watering Basics

Orchid care watering needs vary by species, the type of grow medium, the size of the plant and or container, the climate or atmosphere, and also by season. We can provide our orchids with water from rain, tap water, reverse osmosis or distilled water. It is vitally important that we check the total dissolved salts and Ph level of our water before we water our orchids. Temperature is also an important aspect for our orchid care needs. 


In nature, orchids obtain water from rainfall, dew, and humidity. Natural rainfall is ideal when it comes to orchid care watering and it is a great idea to save rainwater for this purpose. If you are not fortunate enough to have a built in water catchment system, there are many products on the market today that can provide a solution. One simple solution is to harvest rain water with a rain barrel suited for this purpose. There are many models available for under $100.   

Tap Water

For most people tap water is the most available water source. There are some important things that we should know about our tap water before we use it to water our orchids on a regular basis. The first thing we need to know is the hardness or softness of our water. Water is rated as hard or soft depending on the total dissolved salts in the water. A rating of less than 100 parts of total dissolved salts (tds) per million is considered soft, between 100 and 200 parts per million tds is considered medium soft, and above 200 parts per million is considered a hard water source. This is important to know, as continual use with a hard water can lead to damage of the root system from a build up of salts. You can find the total dissolved solids of your water with the aid of a TDS PPM meter or by asking your local water municipality for a report. The second important thing we need to know is our water PH. This is easily obtained with the use of a PH Meter. Ideally we are looking for a neutral to acidic PH level which would be a PH 7 or lower. This can also be obtained by calling our local water municipality or looking on their website.  There is usually a correlation between water hardness/softness and PH, with hard water usually having a higher more alkaline Ph level and vice versa. Orchids will respond best to softer water and lower Ph values. 

Water Treatment and Filtration

One of the best ways to provide the correct ph and water softness for our orchid care watering needs is to install a reverse osmosis water system. A reverse osmosis system works to remove salts, impurities, chemicals, and bacteria from the water. It is not only just good for our plants, but also good for us. Whenever I move to new home, installing a reverse osmosis water filtration system is one of the first things that I do.  A reverse osmosis system will lower the total dissolved salts (tds) parts per million (ppm) which will also lower the PH of your water.  Ideally we are looking for tds/ppm of below 100 and a PH of 7 or less. Adding fertilizer to our water will lower or Ph and while we want to lower our water Ph for our orchid care watering needs, a ph between 5 and 7 is the range that we are aiming for. We should check our water with a TDS PPM meter and a Ph meter before watering our orchids and from time to time because the filters in the reverse osmosis filtering system will eventually start to become less efficient. This is beneficial for our own needs also and is an efficient method to help us know when to change the filters in our system. 

Distilled Water

Distilled water is another solution for our orchid care watering needs. If you find yourself in a region or area that has hard water and a reverse osmosis system just isn't in your budget right now, then using distilled water is the next best choice. Distilled water is water that is steamed, the water evaporates into steam and is brought back to room temperature.  The salts do not distill into steam and are left behind, resulting in a purer, cleaner, softer water with a low Ph. It is still a good idea to check your water softness with a TDS PPM meter and a Ph meter, especially after adding fertilizer to the water. 


Temerperature is another important aspect in our orchid care watering needs. Remember that most orchids in cultivation today originate in tropical and sub tropical climates. Tropical temperatures generally range from the mid 70's to mid 90's Fahrenheit (20 to 30 degrees Celcius) on average. It is wise to keep this in mind when it comes to watering also.  We do not want to shock the roots. Many orchids do not do well with sudden changes in temperature. This can cause premature flower loss, and we do not want that. We want to enjoy those delightful heavenly blooms for as long as possible. If you are using a reverse osmosis sytem or distilled water that you keep in the house, this should not be a problem as the water will be at room temperature. However, if you are using straight soft tap water for your orchid care watering needs, then it is best to pour the water into a watering can and allow it to come to room temperature. This is especially true where spring, fall, and winter's are cool or cold. 

Ice cubes or no ice cubes?

The answer from my perspective is unequivocally no. You may be new to orchid care and you may have purchased your first orchid from a retailer.  Many retailers give first time orchid growers the bad advice to water their orchid with an ice cube once per week. And while there are some orchid growers who swear by this, they are likely to have gotten this advice from a retailer who's self interest lies in your repeatedly buying orchids. You will not find large scale commercial growers adding ice cubes to their orchids. This would likely result in many sickly and diseased orchids. Tropical and sub tropical orchids are never exposed to ice, it is not something that they are biologically equipped to deal with. And while your orchid may survive for some time with this method, long term use of this method is likely to result in your going to the nursery or retailer to buy a new orchid. 

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