Container gardens Gardening Mulching

Don’t Butt Out in Flower Pots!

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Image used in a Montreal campaign to teach smokers not to use flower pots as an ashtray. Source:

In Montreal, Canada, at least 60 fires and millions of dollars of damage were caused by cigarette butts carelessly tossed into flower pots, planters and flower beds in 2017, according to the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (Montreal fire department). I’m sure the same thing is happening everywhere.

I don’t think a gardener who smokes would ever think of tossing a cigarette butt into a planted container or into a flower bed, not even into decorative mulch. We’d recognize that they are ornamental plantings and worth a bit of respect. But, of course, not everyone is a gardener and clearly some people see no substantial difference between a flower pot and an ashtray. (Hint: flower pots usually contain living plants, ashtrays don’t!) So, if you run into friends or family members who haven’t realized how careless they’re being, please let them know.
This flower pot contains not only possibly flammable mulch, but a powder-dry dead boxwood, yet someone carelessly tossed a cigarette butt in. Source:

There are all sorts of inflammable products in flower pots: mulch, plants, dead leaves, peat moss, etc., even soil it it’s really dry, so it just doesn’t make any sense to butt out cigarettes there. Nor should you toss cigarette butts out of a car window, into a garbage can, in a forested or grassy area or indeed, anywhere but an ashtray. And there are ashtrays in plain view in almost all public spaces and even portable ones smokers can carry with them, so there is little excuse for using plantings as a butt recipient.

It can take up to four or five hours between the time that a cigarette is put out and the appearance of the first flame, so the smoker may never realize they caused the ensuing blaze.

This is all easy enough to fix: cigarette butts belong in an ashtray and absolutely nowhere else. To do otherwise is to risk not only damage to property, but even human lives!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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