Make Your Own Color-Changing Fireplace Pinecones

Jill Staake

Available at PlowHearth.com

While browsing the Plow & Hearth website the other day, I came across these Color-Changing Fireplace Pinecones. When you toss one of these into your open fire, the flames will change color (the website says blues and greens) for a few minutes while the pinecone burns. While I thought it was a pretty cool idea, I was a little surprised by the price – nearly $40. I wondered if it was possible to make your own. A little web searching turned up a whole bunch of DIY versions of this project, which would make great holiday gifts for those on your list with fireplaces.

Prep Your Pinecones: (If you use pinecones you purchase at a craft store, you can skip this step.) If you’ve gathered pinecones from the great outdoors, you’ll need to bake them in a 200 degree oven for one hour to remove bugs and open up closed cones. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil first, as sap will drain from the cones. Allow them to cool.

Materials:

  • Large bucket
  • Tongs or slotted spoon
  • Flame colorant – choose one of the following, depending on the color flame you prefer (though most are common household chemicals, remember to keep out of the reach of children and pets):
    • Yellow – Table Salt
    • Yellow-Green – Borax
    • White – Epsom Salts
    • Green – Boric Acid
    • Red – Strontium Chloride (found with aquarium supplies in pet stores)
The Process:
  • Pour 1/2 gallon of hot water into the bucket.
  • Add 1 cup of the colorant of your choice, and stir until dissolved.
  • Add pinecones to the mix. Be sure to add only as many as can be completely covered by the solution. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.
  • Remove the pinecones and set on newspapers to dry completely – at least 3 days.

Now your pinecones are ready to burn! Simply add them (one at a time) to your fireplace and watch the colors appear.

Tips and Precautions:
  • You can make several batches of different colors, but don’t mix the colors in a single batch. Burn only one color of pinecone at a time.
  • Do not use colored pinecones on cooking fires or BBQ grills.
  • Always use common sense and caution with open flames.

Have you ever made your own color-changing pine cones? What tips would you offer to others who attempt this project? Tell us in the comments below!

  1. says

    Are all of these compounds safe to inhale the byproducts when burned? What about in combination? I know that in their crystalized form, in relatively small quantities they are, but not once they are heated/burned.

  2. Matthew says

    Cool trick! I haven’t it tried yet, would this work with normal wood blocks, or some other product?

    I would have trouble getting hold of pinecones, not common to my area and not easily available in my country

  3. paulsub63 says

    Chemicals to color Fire
    Powdered Boric Acid……..Bright Green
    Copper Sulphate…………Green
    Copper Chloride………….Blue
    Strontium Chloride……….Red
    Lithium Chloride…………Crimson
    Potassium Chloride………Purple
    Calcium Chloride…………Orange
    Baking Soda……………..Yellow/Orange
    Table Salt………………..Yellow
    Epsom Salt……………….White

    Use hot water to dissolve whichever chemical you want to use. Mix in as much as will dissolve.
    If you add one teaspoon of dish soap to the water, the chemical will bind with the pine cones.
    Soak the pine-cones for 24 hours before letting them dry.
    You should be able to toss in a few different colored pine-cones in the fire but don’t burn a bunch at once.
    Some more tips can be found on the Mother Earth News website with these two links.
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading/1977-11-01/Colorful-Christmas-Flames.aspx
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading/2000-12-01/Pinecones-that-Flare-Brightly.aspx

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  5. says

    You don’t mix the different colors together because — they each release amounts of their chemical compounds — and — some of the chemical compounds don’t mix well together. Probably not enough exudes to hurt — much.

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  9. Sharlene says

    I made pinecone starters from Martha Stewarts website. You coat pinecones with melted beeswax then sprinkle with Epson Salts, use raffia paper to string together for decorating. It was a christmas decoration. Then cut apart and light the paper to start a fire. Epsons salt is magnesium which has a low flash point. these start a fire quick and easy.I great project and awesome gift to the fire bug I will have to watch more closely to see if the fire is white.

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