Are Cigarette Ashes Good for Plants?

Image: Is cigarette ash good for plants?

Have you explored your options when it comes to fertilizing your indoor plants and backyard garden? If yes, then you would be aware that you could make use of different ingredients and make your own homemade fertilizers for nourishing your plants. From manure to urine to fruit peels and eggshells, but would you give the cigarette ashes a go? Would your plants benefit from it? Undoubtedly, I had to conduct a deep research into it to answer all your questions.

Does Cigarette Ash Hurt Plants?

There are different schools of thought when it comes to using the cigarette ashes for plants. One of them believes that it is absolutely fine to use it on houseplants provides that it is completely burned through while the other one believes that it isn’t safe for the plants as you may feed nicotine to your plants at one point on another.

The first question arises in the mind that why even chose the ash? And the answer is because it contains potassium and calcium but not as much as other healthier substitutes.  Not only ash offers little nutrients, the cigarette ash also contains unwanted ingredients that aren’t good for the plant health. For instance, nicotine, heavy metals, and soot, which can all be very poisonous for your houseplants.

The nightshade family is particularly susceptible to side effects of the ash when treated with it as a fertilizer. The nightshade family includes agricultural crops, weeds, trees, ornamentals, epiphytes, shrubs, spices, lianas, medicinal plants, vines, as well as the perennial and annual herbs.

While some of the houseplants of the nightshade family are poisonous themselves others are the fruits and vegetables that we consume regularly like eggplants, chili peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers.

So, it is clear that we can’t use the cigarette ash for nightshade plants but what about the rest of the houseplants? As already mentioned, the cigarette ash isn’t really rich in any nutrients and hence the benefits that you may yield from using the ash for your houseplants are also negligible.

If you ask whether you can use it as a food source for your plant, I wouldn’t recommend it as it really isn’t rich in any nutrients. If you want to feed your plant with potassium, go ahead and use banana peels, which are incredible source of potassium and pose lesser risk to your houseplants than cigarette ashes. So, go ahead and opt for homemade fertilizers or even a synthetic fertilizer such as Miracle-gro with higher nutrient levels if you wish to keep your plants safe. The cigarette ash can cause a deadly virus in your plants that I explain to you in detail next.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Cigarettes contain tobacco, which is made of thousands of chemicals. Nicotine being a major constituent of tobacco that is capable of killing insect pests and is used in organic insecticides for killing the pests and protecting your plants. However, the tobacco products usually contain a plant virus called the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV).

Although this virus doesn’t kill plants but it tends to hinder their growth while reducing crop yield. TMV is a very difficult condition in plants as it is not easy to combat it.

What is Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV)?

TMV is very common in the tobacco crop but it isn’t limited to tobacco, it can also harm other crops. The TMV is a rod-like rigid particle, which is so small that it can’t be viewed with an ordinary microscope and requires the use of an electron microscope.

Once a plant is infected by the TMV, the virus takes over the normal activity of the cells and multiplies rapidly. The virus doesn’t tend to die even if the plant itself dies. The deadly virus has the tendency to remain dormant in the dead tissues of the plant and may infect other plants at a later stage. This virus remains viable in the cigarettes and their ash particularly if the tobacco used in them was air-cured. On the other hand, the flue-cured tobacco has lesser tendency of having this virus as it is made by repeated heating process reducing the TMV viability.

Symptoms in Plants

The symptoms of TMV vary with the species of the infected plant. However, a common symptom is the appearance of dark green and yellow mosaic pattern on the plant leaves. This pattern usually appears on the older and younger leaves and is mostly confined to the leave tips.

The virus usually stunts the plant growth leaving the leaves deformed and puckered up looking just like ferns. Yellow spots and streaks on the leaves is a very common symptom while on some plants only the veins of the leaves turn yellow or green. Environmental conditions play a major role in the severity of the infection due to TMV. Some of the virus symptoms are just like symptoms of herbicides, pest damage, mineral excess, and deficiency of minerals.

TMV Infections

TMV isn’t spread by the insects and rather by the gardeners and workers who either handle the cigarette products or the plants affected by the TMV. The virus tends to stick with the tools and clothing and remain there for long periods.

Tobacco mosaic virus tends to infect vegetable like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers besides the tobacco plant itself. Other plants and flowers that are susceptible to TMV include roses, phlox, zinnia, cosmos, etc. it may even affects weeds that belong to nightshade, amaranth, and goosefoot family. This virus can also adhere to the hard seed coat and contaminate the seeds causing virus in plants.

How to Control TMV?

No chemical treatment for this extremely persistent virus exists so far. It has been known to have survived on the dried parts of plants for over 50 years. However, preventive measures can be taken to keep it at bay:

  • Don’t smoke near plants.
  • Don’t handle tobacco products while working with your plants.
  • If you smoke, change your clothes and frequently wash your hands before you touch any plants.
  • TMV susceptible weeds must be removed to avoid the spread to other plants.
  • Destroy the plants affected by the virus completely.

What can you use cigarette ashes and butts for?

Keep one thing in mind, feeding your plant with cigarette ash can only be good if it is completely burned through. Or else you would be feeding nicotine to your plant, which can’t be good as it poisons the plants. However, we have brought you an effective way of treating the pests like gnats, whiteflies, leaf and root aphids, leaf miners and thrips.

Since the commercial nicotine sprays are stronger and they tend to kill the good insects as well while fending off the pests. I bring you the recipe to a healthier substitute, my homemade tobacco juice that is milder yet will become your go-to natural pest control.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Add a cup of cigarette butts of a gallon of water.
  2. Add a few drops of liquid soap. (It will make the spray to adhere to your plant).
  3. Now steep this solution for half an hour.
  4. Strain the solution and store it in a jar. It can be used for up to a month.
  5. Use a spray bottle to spray this solution on your plants. It is a great idea to spray the affected plant’s leaves with it.
  6. Spray the lower part of the leaves and stems as well as the surrounding soil.

Things to Avoid

  • If you are using the tobacco juice for your edible plants, restrict its use several weeks before the harvest, as the nicotine tends to stay in the system of the plant for weeks.
  • Avoid its use on the nightshade family, as it is susceptible to TMV.

If you don’t smoke, you can use the tobacco leaves to make this juice instead of the cigarette butts.

Is Cigarette Smoke Bad for Plants?

Absolutely yes! If you smoke and do gardening, then it is probably best that you keep these two activities disjoint and watch where you exhale. Since nothing good comes out of the cigarette smoke, not for humans nor for the houseplants, it is best that you avoid smoking near your plants. If you smoke closely to the plants, its leaves may get coated with the pollution that you exhale with the smoke choking the stomatal pores. As a result, the ability of the leaves to photosynthesize is hindered.


Is Cigarette Ash Biodegradable?

No the Cigarette waste isn’t biodegradable. This is why putting the cigarette ashes and butts into your compost pile may not be such a great idea. Actually, ashes can have an adverse effect on your compost particularly when added in large quantities. I have been unable to find any viable information when it comes to recycling the cigarette ashes and waste. However, a few programs would accept the waste. So, if you love smoking and are not up for quitting it, keep your houseplants out of it. Rather, go ahead and sign up for one of these programs to keep your cigarette waste out of your plants and trash.

What are some tips to deal with the mosaic virus?

Here are a few steps you can take to help your houseplant if it is affected by the TMV:

  • Make sure you disinfect properly before handling your houseplants if you deal with tobacco products regularly.
  • Disinfect everything that you touch that has the tendency to develop the virus like the doorknobs etc. (it is giving me the coronavirus vibes though).
  • Make sure that you disinfect your gardening tools every time you use them.
  • Get rid of the drop debris as soon as possible particularly if you suspect it has the TMV.
  • Get rid of the infected plants and never keep it near the healthy houseplants.
  • Change the potting mix and seeding trays often to avoid infection.

Are there other Ash types that can benefits my Houseplants?

Yes there are. There is no need to write off all types of ashes because the cigarette ash idea turned out detrimental for your houseplants. There is another type of ash that is a friend of your plants. It is the wood ash. A great source of phosphorus, potassium, and calcium, the wood ash is safe for houseplants. But if your plants prefer a pH of 6.5 at least, then steer clear of wood ash as well.

If it is safe for your plants, then go ahead and cover some of your sol with ¼ inch bed of wood ash. Then use a hand rake to make the ash part of your soil while leaving the plant base and roots out of it.

Other types of ashes you can use are:

  • Rice hull ash that wards off snails, slugs, turnip moths, etc. all you have to do is dig a trench around your plants and add this ash to it.
  • Plant ash to keep away the flies and moths from depositing their eggs in your plants.
  • The corncob ash, which keeps the ants away from your plants.