Return to the Container Gardening Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Spontaneous combustion of house plants

Posted by Dick325 FL (My Page) on
Sat, May 28, 11 at 22:26

My daughter in Albuquerque, NM suburb experienced a working shed catching fire overnight. The Fire Marshall said it was not electrical but most likely a spontaneous combustion of potted house plants that were moved into the shed at dark for protection from weather (this is at 8000 feet). I have NEVER heard of this phenonoma except to now find postings on this blog. These plants are in very dry soil. I do not know if Ammonium Nitrate was present as a fertilizer. Sunlight was not present except for a brief period in the morning (fire was discovered at 7am) Any body to suggest sources for an explanation? Thanks,
Richard Ray Shreve, Ph.D. Chemist

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Spontaneous combustion of house plants

There would have had to have been a lot of compost/organic matter decomposing to generate a lot of heat. It's not uncommon for compost piles and mulch piles to heat up to the point of smoldering if left unturned. However, if these plants were really dry, there would be no decomposition in progress. Also, heat from the sun is usually required to cause this. There has been several cases of so called spontaneous combustion of plants, but usually the plant is noted to be dead. A live plant doesn't burn so well. I don't know if I'm sold on the explination here, unless there was a pile or barrel of compost in the shed.


RE: Spontaneous combustion of house plants

This happened at my home on Sunday, June 5, 2011. We have several large ceramic pots on our deck - four of them are grouped together containing strawberry plants. I saw smoke while looking out my bedroom window...It was coming from one of the strawberry plants. The plant was "crispy" when the night before it was - or seemed and felt - extremely healthy. The other pots were not affected. The soil is very natural - from the woods on our property - with some compost material added - egg shells, peanut shells, garlic, etc.... I had noticed a "burning" smell for about a day and a half but I couldn't tell where it was coming from until I saw the smoke. Very Scary! So very glad I was home!

RE: Spontaneous combustion of house plants

A very good reason to save organic methods for the garden, and go with a more inorganic approach for containerized plantings... avoiding imbalance and overly fast decomposition leading to too much generated heat.

Usually, you only hear of this sort of thing happening in a silo, or large barn where hay has been baled and stacked while too wet.

RE: Spontaneous combustion of house plants

Interesting Wikipedia article on the subject.

Here is a link that might be useful: /Spontaneous combustion

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Container Gardening Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here