Cigar ashes contain potassium and calcium albeit, a very small amount. Since potassium is a fertilizer ingredient for many plants, along came the theory that cigar ashes are good for plants. However, there are more risks than benefits, so do not use cigar ash for your plants.
Does this mean you have just found another way to justify smoking a cigar? Should you start saving up the ashes from your cigar sessions?
Or are you feeling a little skeptical about this idea? Or do you finally want to win that argument about dumping your ashes in the potted plants?
Read on as we dive into the urban legend of using cigar ashes for plants.
Is Ash Good for Potted Plants?
Although there is still some debate on the internet (it is the internet, after all) most agree that cigar ashes are not good for plants. So, where did this concept come from in the first place?
The ashes of cigars and cigarettes are essentially leftovers. The carbon in the paper and tobacco burns, the water evaporates and what you are left with is ash.
Some of this ash is made up of potassium and calcium which are beneficial elements to many plants. However, there also tends to be nicotine residue and potentially other residues leftover from the production process. None of these do your plants any good.
In fact, using cigar ash as plant feed puts your plants at risk of Tobacco Mosaic Virus. If you love your plants, you don’t want to spread this virus. They get sickly, permanently.
Another reason behind using cigar ash for plants is that nictoine is toxic to certain pests. The idea is that spreading a few ashes around your plants prevents unwanted insects from making the plant their home.
Theoretically, this is not a bad idea. Until wind from an open window blows the ashes all over the room…
What Is Tobacco Mosaic Virus?
Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) is a virus that can be found on tobacco products. It is completely harmless to humans but wreaks havoc on plants.
Even after smoking the cigar, the virus might still be present in the ash. They are resistant little creatures. When you dump ashes on plant soil, the virus moves on to the plant itself.
Symptoms of Tobacco Mosaic Virus include:
- Yellow and dark green mosaic patterns on leaves
- Deformed and scrunched leaves
- Yellow or green veins
The virus may not kill the plants directly but it does cause stunted growth and your plant won’t recover from the infection. The presence of the virus inhibits their photosynthesis which means that you plant can no longer make sufficient food for itself.
After some time, the plant’s inability to produce its own food may cause it to die completely. Unfortunately, TMV does not die with it. The virus can still move on to other plants.
Which Plants Benefit from Ashes?
Even though we do not recommend using cigar ash for your plants, wood ash is a different story.
Imagine yourself smoking a cigar in the perfect place. What do you picture? Is there are fireplace and a comfortable chair?
Smoking a cigar by the fireplace is a classic image. The epitome of luxury and relaxation. And maybe your plants can get something out of it, too.
Wood ashes also contain potassium and calcium, in larger amounts than cigar ash. More importantly, wood ash is quite alkaline. That is why horticulturists may recommend spreading a little ash from the fireplace on acidic soil – to help balance out the pH.
Again, the concept needs some nuance. It is only safe to use wood ash as a natural pH adjustment if it is completely natural wood. Do not use commercially sold wood as these are often processed with chemicals to burn more easily.
Plants that like more alkaline soil:
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Frequently Asked Questions:
Are Cigars Biodegradable?
Cigars are only biodegradable if they do not contain any plastics. However, even if it is 100% natural, throwing a cigar on a compost pile is not a good idea. Usually, there is some nicotine still left inside the cigar and this has adverse effects on the composting process.
What Do You Do with Cigar Ash?
Cigar ash should be properly disposed of in the trash, after it has completely cooled off. It cannot be put in the compost bin and it can also not be recycled.
Alternatively, there is an old time trick of cleaning extremely dirty windows with a mixture of water and fireplace ash. Traditionally, this is done with wood ash but you can try your luck with cigar ash.
Are Cigarette Ashes Good for Plants?
Cigarette ashes are not good for plants because they put the plants at risk of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). Also, the nicotine in cigarettes is toxic to both the plant and insects.
Finally finding a use for your cigar ashes may be exciting but using cigar ash for plants is not the answer. Although there is some potential theoretically, it does not work out in practice.
There are two main claims on why cigar ash might be good for plants:
- Nicotine is toxic to pests
- Cigar ash contains potassium and calcium
The first, cigar ash as a DIY pesticide, has some good thinking in it. However, nicotine is equally bad for plants so how do you protect the plant from it?
Perhaps, a little dusting around the soil of outdoor plants may prevent certain insects from coming close. But this would not work with an indoor potted plant.
The second claim is more hopeful than practical. Yes, cigar ash does contain potassium and calcium which are common ingredients in plant fertilizers.
However, we are talking about tiny trace amounts. Chances are that you will be doing more damage than good to your plant by putting ash in their soil.
So in short, do not use cigar ashes for your houseplants. There is more risk than benefit associated with it so it is not worth the try.