How Do You Plant Ashes Properly?

With the significant increase in the number of people choosing cremation over burial, the demand for unique and meaningful memorial options involving cremation ashes is also on the rise. Today there are a wide range of options, including performing a water burial, making a diamond from ashes, infusing a portion of cremated ashes into a glass decorative piece, scattering ashes at a special place with a biodegradable scattering urn, burying in a bamboo burial urn and one of the most popular, using a tree urn or biotree urn to grow a tree memorial. The patented Living Urn has quickly become the leading tree burial urn option for families all over the world. For families interested in growing a beautiful and enduring memorial tree from a bio urn containing a loved one’s ashes, we wanted to share some tips about properly planting cremation ashes.

Selecting the Right Tree

planting cremation ashes

The Living Urn is the only biodegradable urn in the world specifically designed to be planted with a living tree. It is designed this way to make it easy for families to successfully grow a healthy and enduring memorial tree. Expert arborists do not recommended starting with a seed or a tiny seedling - there are a number of reasons for this but, in general, it is challenging and difficult to have success this way (there’s a reason why nurseries don’t sell tree seeds or tiny seedings!).

The Living Urn provides strong and healthy young trees to plant with its patented bio urn and planting system. Along with The Living Urn System, the tree is shipped to your doorstep, ready to plant, and range from 2 to 4 feet in height with a robust root system. The Living Urn offers over 50 different tree options and add new options on a regular basis. The tree options are also narrowed down by what grows best in each zip code in the U.S. To see the tree options offered in your area, simply visit The Living Urn website and enter your zip code, or ask your local funeral director.

The Living Urn System is also offered without a tree for families who want to purchase one at a local nursery to plant with The Living Urn. You can plant any size tree with The Living Urn and the bio urn system comes with simple and easy-to-follow instructions on how to plant with the tree you purchase. 

Preparing the Planting Site

It is important to select a site that fits the sun, shade, soil, and spacing requirements needed for your tree. Prior to planting, clear the weeds and brush in at least a 3 foot radius from where the tree is to be planted and dig a hole that is at least 12-18” deep.

Preparing the Biodegradable Urn

Remove the bio urn from its bamboo case and any additional packaging around the urn. Take off the lid and carefully place some or all of the cremated ashes in the bottom of the urn (if the funeral home has already done this for you, skip this step). The Living Urn’s bio urn is designed to be used with as much or as little of the cremated remains as desired. 

Expert Tip: It is important that you purchase a bio urn that quickly biodegrades after being planted and does not impede root growth. This is critical for any tree urn as you want to make sure the roots grow freely and you also want water to be able to permeate the urn material. If an urn you’re considering doesn’t do this, then stay away. The Living Urn’s unique bio urn is made from recycled plant materials - strong and rigid above ground and allows you to store ashes for as long as desired prior to planting (many years if you like). However, when The Living Urn’s bio urn is planted and exposed to soil and moisture, it softens instantly, allows water to permeate the material and will break down rapidly, freeing the roots.

Plant the Urn with Ashes and Tree

If your bio urn comes with additives, now is the time to add them (such as RootProtect® that comes with The Living Urn). Next, place the bio urn in the hole and some of the top soil dug from the ground in and around the urn. Then, follow the instructions provided with the urn to achieve the desirable depth. Plant the young tree in the top portion of the bio urn.

Expert Tip: Depending on the soil at the planting site, you may consider getting some rich, organic soil (without synthetic fertilizer) to mix in with the soil from your hole. If you choose to do this, it is best to mix the soil you buy with the native soil as you want your young tree to get used to the soil in the area where it is being planted.


Give the tree a generous watering right after being planted, however, do not water it so much that there’s standing water around the tree. The objective is to keep the entire area around the tree moist near the surface and down to its root depths. By simply being moist, oxygen can permeate down to the roots (however with soggy soil oxygen cannot reach the roots).

For a newly planted tree in the hot or dry Summer months, water regularly so the water can penetrate deep and reach all of its roots (typically about 30 seconds of steady watering from a common garden hose is sufficient). Too little water can be harmful to the tree and so can too much water. Over watering a newly planted tree is one of the most common mistakes people make. You want the soil to remain moist, not saturated.

Additional information about watering your newly planted tree memorial can be found here.

Expert Tip: An easy way to check if you need to water or not is to use a garden trowel and push into the ground near the tree base about 2 to 3 inches deep. Then, move it to make a small hole.  Place your finger in the hole to feel the soil at the 2-3 inch depth. If it is dry, then water, but if moist hold off and check back again later.


As a final step, add mulch and lots of it! Mulch can be wood chips, bark, pine needles, or other natural materials that serves as a top layer and provides insulation. It creates a buffer from any hot or cold above ground temperatures. It also keeps the moisture in the soil, keeping the roots of the tree healthy and requiring less watering. Additional advantages of mulch include preventing weeds and competition for the tree roots along with preventing the soil around the tree from compacting.

The Living Urn comes with a starter pack of mulch to remind you of this important step. It’s important that you find or purchase a good amount of mulch to be planted with the tree. The entire 3 foot radius of cleared area around the tree should have a substantial amount of mulch when done (about 2-4 inches deep).

For additional information regarding mulching your newly planted tree memorial, click here.

Expert Tip: It’s important to leave a bit of space between the mulch and the tree trunk, as you do not want mulch touching the tree.

Additional Important Planting Considerations

Be sure not to use fertilizer or any chemicals with your newly planted tree memorial as it could hurt the tree. 

The Result: A Beautiful Tree Memorial

After you complete these easy to follow steps, you will have a beautiful tree memorial growing in honor of a loved one and giving back! This tree can serve as a living reminder of everything he or she meant to you and your family and keep their memory present in your life.