It can be difficult to know what to do with the ashes of a loved one after their cremation. There is a range of options available, from simply keeping the urn at home to having the ashes made into jewelry or a personal keepsake. There are even more extravagant options, such as having the ashes launched into space. Many families choose to form a living memorial out of their loved one's ashes, involving burying the ashes in the backyard, followed by planting a tree over the ashes. However, this process can lead to disappointment if not done properly.
A Struggling Tree
Simply planting a tree over cremated human remains often spells disaster for the tree. Your efforts to create a living memorial for a loved one can lead to distress when the living portion of the memorial struggles, wilts, and then dies. It's often the presence of the ashes that is causing the tree's failure.
Cremated human remains are rich in phosphates. An elevated phosphate content in soil essentially chemically chokes any plants growing in the immediate vicinity, as it means plants cannot extract vital nutrients from the soil. So how is it possible to grow a tree over a loved one's buried ashes?
Instead of burying the entirety of the ashes before planting a tree, place a small amount in the soil. The tree can then be planted and cared for. The remainder of the ashes can be spread (in stages) at the base of the tree once it has begun to grow or can be spread in a wider area around your backyard. This avoids increasing the phosphate concentration in the soil in any one area. However, this approach may not be appealing, as it may seem like the tree is a symbolic memorial, as opposed to the final resting place of the entirety of your loved one's cremated remains.
A Professional Solution
If you intend to plant a tree over the ashes, it's best to make these arrangements as early as possible. Talk to the crematory or funeral home, as it may be possible for them to provide a tree urn. This is when the ashes are combined with soil in a biodegradable container. The soil is treated with a neutralizing agent to offset the effects of its phosphate content. A sapling of your choice is then planted in the container. All you need to do is take the container home and plant it.
Remember that simply planting a tree over cremated human remains may lead to the premature end of the tree. Planning a living memorial to a loved one can be a wonderful idea, but requires some planning so that the living part of the memorial is actually able to live.
To learn more about cremation, talk to a funeral home in your area, such as Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel.