Planting With Cremains – Is There A Safe Way To Bury Ashes

Lady Holding Urn And Cremated Ashes
Cremated Ashes
(Image credit: Des Green)

Planting a tree, rose bush, or flowers to memorialize a loved one can provide a beautiful place of remembrance. If you'll be planting with cremains (cremated remains) of your loved one, there are extra steps you'll need to take to ensure the viability of your remembrance garden.

How to Make Cremains Safe for Soil

It seems logical that ashes from cremated remains would be beneficial to plants, but in truth, cremains have a high alkaline and sodium content that is anything but beneficial. Both the high pH levels and excess sodium discourage plant growth by prohibiting absorption of the essential nutrients they require. This occurs whether the ashes are buried or scattered on top of the ground.

The safe way to bury ashes or scatter cremains and ensure the viability of the memorial garden is to neutralize cremation ashes. Regular garden soil doesn't have the capacity to buffer the high pH levels of cremains. Additionally, amending the soil won't address the high sodium content. Luckily, there are several companies that can help gardeners overcome these issues.

Purchasing a Soil Cremation Mixture

Products marketed to neutralize cremation ashes and make planting with cremains possible vary in price and methodology. One option is to purchase a soil cremation mixture which is designed to lower the pH and dilute the sodium content of the ashes. When cremains are added to this mixture, it creates a safe way to bury ashes in a memorial garden or spread ashes overtop the ground. This method recommends letting the ash/amendment mixture sit for at least 90 to 120 days before using in the garden.

An alternative option for planting with cremains is the biodegradable urn kit. The urn provides a space for the containment of the ashes. (Placing the ashes in the urn can be done at home by family members or as a service of the funeral home or cremation service provider.) The kit contains a soil additive that is placed on top of the ashes. Depending upon the company, the kit comes with a tree sapling or tree seeds of your choice. These urns won't begin decaying until placed in the ground, so cremains can be safely stored in the urn for weeks or even years.

Different companies offer slightly different options. Doing a little online research can help gardeners decide which type of product best suits their needs. Whether you support green burials or you're looking for a final resting place for a cremated loved one, it's comforting to know there's an eco-friendly and safe way to bury ashes.

Laura Miller

Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.