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How to Grow Coal Flowers

By M.H. Dyer ; Updated September 21, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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

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 Will 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)


  • When the flowers begin to deteriorate, the coals can be rinsed and re-used.

About the Author


M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.