Planting In Cremation Ashes – Are Cremation Ashes Good For Plants

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Planting in cremation ashes sounds like a wonderful way to pay tribute to a friend or family member who has passed on, but is gardening with cremation ashes really beneficial for the environment, and can plants grow in human ashes? Read on for more information about growing trees and plants in human ashes.

Are Cremation Ashes Good for Plants?

Can plants grow in human ashes? Unfortunately, the answer is no, not very well, although some plants may be more tolerant than others. Human ashes are also bad for the environment because unlike plant matter, ashes don’t decompose. There are a few other problems to consider when thinking about planting in cremation ashes:

  • Cremation ashes may be harmful when placed in the soil or around trees or plants. While cremains are composed of nutrients that plants require, primarily calcium, potassium and phosphorus, human ashes also contain an extremely high amount of salt, which is toxic for most plants and can be leached into the soil.
  • Additionally, cremains don’t contain other essential micronutrients such as manganese, carbon and zinc. This nutritional imbalance may actually hinder plant growth. For example, too much calcium in soil can quickly reduce the supply of nitrogen, and may also limit photosynthesis.
  • And finally, cremation ashes have a very high pH level, which can be toxic to many plants because it prevents the natural release of beneficial nutrients within the soil.

Alternatives to Growing Trees and Plants in Cremation Ashes

A small amount of human ashes mixed into the soil or spread on the surface of the planting area shouldn’t harm plants or negatively affect soil pH.

Some companies sell biodegradable urns with specially prepared soil for planting in cremation ashes. These companies claim that the soil is formulated to counteract nutritional imbalances and harmful pH levels. Some even include a tree seed or seedlings.

Consider mixing human ashes into concrete for a unique garden sculpture, birdbath or paving stones.

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