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planting an ashes memorial tree - when to plant

When is the best time of year to plant an ashes Memorial Tree?

Ashes Memorial Tree: When is the best time of year to plant a Memorial Tree?

A memorial tree is likely to be the most important plant in your garden, so if you want to plant a tree so you can bury or scatter ashes then you have to give it the very best chance of survival.

Here at Scattering Ashes UK we are really keen on memorial trees, they provide a wonderful way to remember a loved one,  they are a focal point and metaphor of life continuing. Therefore, it is important to give them a good start. The Royal Horticultural society has great advice for all you gardeners and the broad message is to plant September to April.

These are the wetter months and therefore once the plant is in then there is less watering required, also they are the more dormant months so planting memorial trees is easier as the roots are not so sensitive.

So, you know you want to plant a memorial tree and now you know when, but that is not the end of, here are a few other considerations…

Do you want to use cremation ashes when planting the tree?

Obviously if the answer is: no, I am not using ashes, then you can skip right ahead to the next point.

However, many people do. There are three ways of doing this:

  • Scattering ashes around the base of the tree
  • Bury the ashes in an urn beneath the tree
  • Mix the soil and the ashes

Let’s take them in turn, scattering ashes around a tree is a good option but firstly make sure the ashes are very well dispersed eg raked in over an area of a 2 ½ meter radius around the tree, which might seem quite wide but you want to prevent any of the negative aspect of the ashes from impacting the roots – the salt content and the alkaline nature.

Burying the ashes in an urn underneath the tree; some people like this idea, the benefits are that if the urn is solid then it can be recovered at a later date if needs be and many people express the wish for the ashes to be kept together. Again, for those using a biodegradable urn consider what biodegradable means, the card base urn will break down fairly quickly, if you have used a solid wood casket this may take a number of years.

Planting the ashes with/in the soil. This is the most common choice as there is a sense that the ashes then go on to enrich the tree. This is a great option, the best in my opinion, but there is a catch… ashes and plants don’t mix well together. The chemical content of ashes dispersed are fairly benign but if it is in concentration and in contact of the roots of the plant the effect can be significant: stunting growth, yellowing leaves and in many cases killing the plant. However, there is an affordable solution to this, the Living Memorial soil that is specially developed in the US which not only neutralises the salts and pH, but cleverly releases the nutrient (potassium and phosphate from the ashes so they can be taken up by the plant or tee).

Choosing the right spot for your memorial tree

There is a balance between the tree or plant that you want, the space you have and the amount of sunlight/ shade that the spot gets. Most of us don’t have a huge garden and outside spaces, so sometimes there needs to be a trade-off. Basically, if you are set on the location then you need to find a plant that works well in that setting. Don’t expect a sun loving plant to thrive in a shady corner and vice versa.

Likewise, if you are set on a plant you need to be flexible about your location. You might be lucky and choose a tree or plant that works well in the space you have.

Preparing the location for your memorial tree

Make sure the soil surrounding the area is aerated – a garden fork works well for loosening up. The area should be neither to dry nor too wet – plants like neither.

If the site is always waterlogged then make sure what you want to plant there is suitable as permanently waterlogged roots will lead to problems over time.

Plants will not grow where soil contains too little air or where soil moisture is either excessive or insufficient.

Get you fork in there and loosen up the soil to the depth of the root ball, maybe a bit more.

Digging a hole

The hole needs to be the depth of the root system and about 3 times the diameter.

Make sure the sides of the hole are loose so the roots can get in there.

If the sides of the planting hole are compacted, break the soil up with a fork before planting.

Make sure the root ball is well soaked.

If you’re using the living memorial soil with the ashes then makes sure there is enough volume for the roots and the soil.

The first roots sprouting from the stem need to be in line with the surface of the soil.

Refill the soil making sure there are no air pockets. Firm the soil gently, avoiding compacting the soil into a soil mass and so it can be watered.

Use a stake and rabbit protection if needs be.


Remember to keep the plant watered and keep a look out for pests and fungi, then watch your tree grow and flourish making it arguably the perfect way to memorialise a loved one.

Memorial tree plant with ashes



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