Using ice cubes to water plants may not be popular, but it is a known practice for some gardeners. It may be helpful because it slowly releases moisture into the soil and can also help with temperature regulation during periods of extreme heat. However, it may not be suitable for many plants, including African violets.
You should not water your African violets with ice cubes because the cold can damage the plant. This plant benefits from warm water, ideally at room temperature (around 68 °F or 20 °C). Moreover, African violets do well with a bit of dry soil before their next watering schedule.
African violets are easy to grow, but they do have pretty specific watering needs and are sensitive to overwatering. This article will explore the watering requirements of African violets and why it isn’t a good idea to water them using ice cubes. I will also share an alternative way to water them without using ice cubes.
Watering Requirements of African Violets
African violets are native to East Africa, where the climate is warm and temperate. The key to growing them successfully in regions with colder climates is replicating the plants’ natural environment and providing them with just the right amount of water.
That’s the tricky part, though, as many people can easily make a mistake and over-water African violets. The good thing is that there are only a few things to remember regarding the watering needs of African violets. Once you know them, it will be easy to follow a routine.
The following are some essential factors to consider about the watering requirements of African violets:
- Water temperature
- Water components
- Moisture level
Below, I will cover these requirements in more detail:
African violets prefer water at room temperature or 62-72 °F (17-22 °C). Temperatures below 55 °F (15.5 °C) can cause irreversible leaf damage like ring spots or discoloration.
During the cold season, when the water from the tap gets too cold, it is best to leave the water to warm up to room temperature to prevent leaf damage. In addition, letting the water sit overnight will allow the chlorine to evaporate and the minerals to settle into the bottom of the container.
Pour water close to the base of the stem near the soil and avoid watering the leaves. You can use a syringe or a watering can with a narrow spout to prevent the water from touching the leaves.
Many plants have specific humidity requirements that help them grow optimally. African violets thrive best when the humidity is above 80%, but can tolerate levels around 40-60%.
While most people mist their plants during dry winters, you should not do the same for your African violets. These plants have sensitive leaves that may develop rings or water spots as the water cools on their surface.
Remember to wipe away droplets of water that fall on the leaves of your African violets to prevent leaf damage. You can use a lint-free piece of cloth to do so after watering the plant.
When the humidity drops below 40%, you can raise it to ideal levels by placing your plant’s pot on a pebble tray with water. Be sure that the bottom of the pot doesn’t touch the surface of the water because the soil may absorb it, exposing your plant roots to excess moisture that may lead to root rot.
It is best to use distilled or purified water on your African violets. It can help ensure that the plants do not get exposed to the risk of chlorine buildup and diseases from water contaminants.
Excessive chlorine buildup can cause leaf burn on your African violets. In most cases, it can also significantly reduce the number of flowers, which can be problematic since most people admire this plant for its vivid flowers.
African violets do well indoors, where they are protected from the elements. The plant can benefit from partial and filtered sunlight.
Avoid exposing your plant directly to rainwater, as it may contain salt that can cause petiole damage when the salt accumulates on the surface of the soil. In addition, rainwater can be too cold and remain on the foliage long enough to cause damage.
Some fertilizers may contain salts that will stay in the soil. Since the pot has a limited space and soil content, excessive amounts of salt can be bad for your African violets. To leach the salt out of the pot, you need to water it with distilled water thoroughly from the top.
Let the pot sit in the sink for an hour until the water stops draining from the holes. You can do this every time you water your African violet. It can also help eliminate undesirable substances from fertilizers in case of over-fertilization.
African violets can endure a bit of dry soil between waterings. Let the soil surface feel dry to the touch before adding more water to the pot. If you have well-draining soil, add enough water until you see the excess draining out of the drainage holes.
The soil should feel moist to the touch and not soggy. Pour out the excess water accumulated on the plant saucer to prevent the soil from sitting on too much water. Failure to do so is usually why plants suffer from fungal infections resulting in root rot.
Risks of Watering With Ice Cubes
Although watering your plants with ice cubes provides an excellent watering alternative when you are too busy to pay attention to your plant’s needs, it is not the best course of action for plants like African violets and succulents like Christmas cacti.
These plants do love humidity and good moisture in the soil. However, the cold can cause irreversible damage to their leaves and flowers.
Below are some downsides of watering African violets with ice cubes:
Cold Water Can Damage the Leaves
African violets have short stems, and the leaves typically hang close to the soil. Placing ice cubes on the soil will most likely put the low-lying leaves in contact with the ice or cold water, putting them at risk of discoloration or the formation of water spots.
The leaves of African violets are particularly sensitive to the cold. That’s why it is best to avoid leaving ice cubes on the soil for extended periods. Better yet, avoid using ice cubes on your plant altogether.
Cold Temperatures Lead to a Lack of or Decrease in Flowers
African violets are temperature-sensitive. Ideally, they should be kept in a room or environment with temperatures ranging from 60-80 °F (15.5-26.7 °C). Exposing them to lower temperatures may result in a lack or decrease in the number of flowers.
Regularly watering your violets with ice cubes can lower the temperature of the soil and expose the roots to a cold environment. As a result, the plant may not produce flowers at all. Although some plants may produce buds, the cold will prevent them from opening.
Try an Alternative Watering Method: Wick Watering
If you tend to forget when you last watered your African violet, you can install a wick in the soil to provide moisture whenever your plant needs it. Attach the other end of the wick to distilled water and refill the container regularly.
This method works better than using ice cubes and is proven to be effective in meeting the watering needs of most plants while avoiding the risk of over-watering and under-watering.
Downsides of Wick Watering
When the indoor temperature drops below 68 °F (20 °C), it may also lower the temperature of the water in the container with the wick.
The water will not cool down immediately and cause significant damage to the plant until the room’s temperature falls to 50 °F (10 °C). Either way, it is best to keep the water in the container within the optimal range of 62-72 °F (17-22 °C).
In addition, wick watering cannot leach out excessive salts or other harmful substances from the pot. Therefore, this method is only good as an alternative but not a permanent watering technique for your African violets.
You should still water your plant from the top, especially when using fertilizers.
New gardening techniques come out every once in a while. You may hear or find anecdotal evidence around you to vouch for their effectiveness. However, you should approach each new technique with caution as it may not be safe for the kinds of plants you have in your garden.
Although using ice cubes to water plants is fast becoming a trend, some experts and experienced gardeners don’t support the idea. It is not safe and can be counterproductive to many plants, including African violets.