How to Make a Humidity Tray

Orchid Humidity Tray
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Updated October 23, 2019

I went out of town for five days this past week to visit my sister and nieces in Austin, so I had to abandon my orchids for the first time in awhile. Because I’ve gotten used to checking on them daily, leaving them made me a little nervous. I wanted to make sure my orchids didn’t dry out too badly; a bunch of them have aerial roots that I mist about once a day. What many orchid growers recommend if your home is on the dry side are humidity trays [paid link]. A humidity tray is a shallow dish lined with stones or pebbles and filled with water almost to the top of the stones; the plant sits ON TOP OF the stones and reaps the benefit of the water as it evaporates.  You just have to make sure that the plant is not sitting IN the water – something that can lead to root rot. More details on humidity trays can be found here.

I thought about ordering a tray or two online, but research revealed that I would need to spend at least $20 for one tray (including S&H; at the time of this writing many years ago). Instead, I cobbled together my own makeshift humidity trays to help keep the humidity level up while I was gone. I ended making trays in three different ways (without having to spend much $) and I think they’re pretty clever. Voila! Homemade humidity trays:

DIY orchid humidity tray
Ice cube trays
DIY orchid humidity tray
Cooking dish + marbles
DIY orchid humidity tray
Plastic spinach artichoke dip container

It may be hard to tell from the photo, but the dip container is one of those that is raised in the center, so it was perfect for my little tolumnia. I poured water into the container so that only the outer edge was wet – kind of like a tiny moat – and placed the pot on the raised bit in the middle so that it didn’t sit in the water.

How much did all of this cost me? Well, I already had the ice cube trays so those cost zilch. I bought the marbles at my local pet store for $6 (two bags at $3 apiece, found in the fish tank section) and the spinach artichoke dip (which, BTW was quite tasty) had cost me $4. Total cost for four humidity trays: $10. Show me ONE humidity tray that you can buy online for that price!

I did some rearranging of my orchid setup before I left town which ended up being a mistake for my NOID dendrobium from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. When I left, the den had two new growths that were both doing well; when I returned, one of the growths had turned black and fallen over. I trimmed the rotten growth away and moved the plant from the bedroom back into the kitchen. Hopefully it will continue to be ok in there – it was doing well before I moved it. If it ain’t broke…

Luckily my other orchids seem to be doing well.  I’m going to keep using the humidity trays and see how it goes.

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  1. That’s a good and inexpensive idea! I also needed humidity trays for my orchids too, and I don’t want to spend too much money on it. I found some Chinese takeout plastic containers that I was supposed to put in the recycle bin yesterday, and filled it with stones from my previous paperwhite plantings, and problem solved. 🙂

  2. Hi, has anyone actual measured the humidity using such trays? I’ve seen suggestions that this has little to no impact on actual humidity that reaches the plant. It would be interesting to see if there is some data behind this. How much water do you pour in the ice cube trays?

    1. Hi Pawel, I’m sure there’s probably some sort of research out there on this. I suppose you could actually place your humidity meter on or next to the humidity tray and compare the humidity levels to other parts of the room and see if there’s a meaningful difference. I fill the ice cube trays almost to the top, but not enough to allow the bottom of the pots to be in contact with the water.

  3. I’m probably going to sound really silly, but what should the water temperature be? And is it okay to have them constantly sitting in there? Our home is constantly air conditioned because its so hot outside this time of the year. I set my three orchids on the bathroom counter when I take a shower, but i’m thinking they would enjoy some extra moisture.

    1. That’s a good question. I don’t think it matters what temperature water you put in the humidity tray, because these trays are usually pretty shallow and the water will end up coming to room temperature pretty quickly. It’s fine for orchids to be sitting on a humidity tray constantly as long as the bottom of the pot isn’t in contact with the water. Orchids don’t like “wet feet!”

  4. I have to admit that I literally laughed out loud when I scrolled and saw the ice cube trays! So many clever things in life really are simple, aren’t they?

  5. I have two Coke tray that were purchased from the Dollar Tree store, for a dollar, and I think I am going to try them. My marbles came from there also, so for $4.00 I have two pretty large trays!
    Thanks for the idea!

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