How to Grow Coal Flowers

Overview

Coal flowers aren't actually flowers, but a craft that has historically been practiced by coal-mining families since the late 1800s. Because coal was plentiful but money wasn't, coal flowers became a favored household decoration, especially around the winter holidays. Although the craft has fallen out of favor in recent years, it's still an interesting craft, an effective science lesson and a good opportunity for kids to discuss cultural traditions.

Step 1

Arrange several lumps of coal in a pie plate or a shallow bowl. Decorate the coal with different items, such as fabric scraps, yarn, twigs or pine cones, then secure them with a bit of glue.

Step 2

Combine the table salt, water, household ammonia and bluing in a small bowl. Add few drops of food coloring if you like. Pour the mixture slowly over the coal arrangement.

Step 3

Put the plate in a safe place where it won't be bumped or jostled.

Step 4

Watch for the crystals to begin forming, which should occur in just a few hours, depending on the temperature. Within 24 hours, the coal and decorations should be covered with crystal "flowers."

Things You'll Need

  • Glass pie plate or shallow bowl
  • Small lumps of coal
  • Fabric scraps, yarn, twigs, pine cones
  • Craft glue
  • 7 tbsp. table salt
  • 7 tbsp. tap water
  • 1½ tbsp. household ammonia
  • 7 tbsp. laundry bluing
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Food coloring (optional)

References

  • Coal Flowers: A Historic Craft
  • Coal Flowers: Social Studies Connections
  • Coal-Related Activities for Secondary Students
Keywords: coal flowers, science lessons, cultural traditions

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a longtime writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the "East-Oregonian Newspaper" and "See Jane Run" magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.