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How to Grow a Plant in Charcoal

By D.C. Winston ; Updated September 21, 2017

Charcoal can be an ideal growing medium for epiphytic and other plants that require air flow around their roots or that soak up moisture and micronutrients from the ambient air to sustain themselves. Orchids, bromeliads, cacti and succulents all can survive and thrive with garden-grade charcoal being used as a significant element in their planting medium. Charcoal is often used as a substitute for perlite as it possesses the same functional qualities. Charcoal speeds drainage, inhibits bacteria and fungal development and allows good air flow and is therefore a good option for inclusion in potting medium for a range of plants.

Combine 1 part horticultural charcoal with 2 parts each of sand, peat moss and garden soil as a planting medium for cacti and other succulents.

Build a growing medium for epiphytic orchids such as dendrobiums, cattleya and phalaenopsis by mixing 1 part horticultural charcoal with 5 parts of coarse chipped or shredded bark.

Mix a potting soil for bromeliads by combining 2 parts sphagnum peat moss with 1 part horticultural charcoal and 1 part pine fir bark.

Create a planting mix for African violets that includes 1 part horticultural charcoal with 2 parts sphagnum peat moss and 1 part vermiculite.

Feed and water your plants growing in chipped charcoal or charcoal amended soil regularly. Most epiphytic or drainage-loving plants will benefit from weekly or more frequent watering and monthly feeding of fertilizer diluted with water and applied over the roots.


Things You Will Need

  • Bagged horticultural charcoal
  • Water
  • Fertilizer


  • This is not the time to break out the charcoal briquettes and crush them up. Charcoal designed for barbecue use is treated with chemicals that can quickly be deadly to plants. Use only bagged horticultural charcoal when planting.