How to Plant a Tree In Memory of a Loved One

If you want to plant a tree in memory of someone who has died, but don’t know where to begin, look no further. Planting memorial trees in dedication to loved ones has become an increasingly popular choice, as trees can create a living legacy that honors the life and memory of those who’ve gone before us.

Memorial trees are also a unique way to have a positive impact on the environment, all while being a tangible representation of the person you loved. 

Tribute trees, as they are sometimes called, can also make a meaningful memorial gift, as well.

So today we’re going to take a look at how to plant a tree in memory of someone, as well as reasons to plant a memorial tree, the best tree planting services, memorial tree markers, and more!

Our website is supported by our users. We sometimes earn a commission when you click through the affiliate links on our website. See our privacy policy & disclosures for more information.

Why Should You Plant a Tree in Memory

Why plant a tree in memory of someone? There are myriad reasons why planting a memorial tree is a good idea. Here are just a few of my favorite reasons for you to consider.

  • New trees are good for the environment. Having a higher number of trees in our state forests means a greater reduction of harmful greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide).
  • Trees planted in devastated forest areas help restore our national forests. What better way to give back to the local community than by rebuilding the forest?
  • Trees greatly benefit the local wildlife. Trees serve as a shelter for birds and other small animals, and as a food source for many species.  
  • The tree is a symbol of life and hope. There is something so beautiful about the physical process of planting a tree and watching it grow. Trees have been used as symbols of life and hope for almost as long as recorded history.
  • A tree planted in memory of someone is more than just a symbol; it’s real. There is a special meaning in having something living to honor their memory. 
  • As a gift, this is not a trinket that someone will feel obligated to keep. Memorial trees for deceased loved ones provide not only environmental benefit, but are also a practical tribute. Once planted, they belong to the earth more than to any one person.
  • You can send a card or plaque directly to the recipient’s home. They will receive these along with the location of the tree!
  • Unlike funeral flowers, memorial trees are lasting. One of the main reasons people love giving the gift of trees is that they are lasting. Especially if they are planted in dedicated memorial forests.
  • Planting a tree in memory is generally more affordable than flowers. Funeral flowers can be extraordinarily expensive. Alternatively, planting a sapling can cost as little as $10-$15.
  • Planting a tree (or having one planted) is fun! We could list out all of the positive effects, but we might be here all day.
  • A great option for humans and pets. Whether you plant a tree in memory of pets or human family, it’s a lasting legacy to them. You can come back to pay your respects and even spread your beloved pet’s ashes around the tree. Or, you can plant a tree in memory with ashes – more on that below.

As you can see, there are really no major cons when it comes to planting a tree in memory of someone. Next, let’s take a look at the various options at your disposal when it comes to deciding on how to proceed.

Different Tree Memorial Options

There are lots of options when it comes to memorial tree planting.

1. Do it Yourself: Plant a Tree Seed or Sapling

Plant a tree seed or sapling

There is something therapeutic about work. Starting, concentrating on, and completing a task — especially one with a purpose — is a great way to help work your way through the grieving process. If you stop to think about it, the simple act of planting a tree memorial is a symbolic process as well.

Here is a list of steps for how to plant a tree in memory of someone:

  1. Choose a tree seed, sapling, or young tree
  2. Select a location on your property or on public lands
  3. Wait for the right season (during the dormant season for your tree type)
  4. Gather tools and supplies (gloves, shovel, stake and rope to support the tree)
  5. Dig a hole 2-3 times wider than the root ball, and just as deep as the root ball
  6. Ensure the root ball is “flared” (brush the roots outward and remove excess dirt)
  7. Plant so that the top of the root ball is even with the surrounding earth level
  8. Straighten the tree vertically and fill the hole, packing the soil gently yet firmly
  9. If you need to stake the tree, use three stakes
  10. Add mulch around the base of the tree

Another option is to grow a smaller indoor plant, such as a bonsai tree.

2. Order a Tree Planted Where it’s Needed Most

Plant a tree in memory

Trees for a Change is an amazing memorial tree-planting service that will plant native trees in the forests where they are most needed. In my opinion, it is the best memorial tree planting service out there.

These memorial trees are planted in U.S. National Parks and forests in places specifically identified by the Forest Service of North America. The newly planted trees replace ones destroyed by forest fires, diseases, insects, or natural disasters in American forests.

This is a beautiful way to honor your loved one’s memory and also makes a unique gift to send as a sympathy present.

I spoke with the company’s founder and “Tree Lover-in-Chief,” Kim, and she was keen to mention that “Dedicating a tree as a memorial gift is a thoughtful, lasting and affordable alternative to sympathy flowers. It’s a really caring way to express your sympathy and allow the memory of someone special to live on.”

There are several ways to order a single tree or even a grove, and you can look up more information and photos listed in the memorial recipient’s name in the online registry.

3. Plant a Tree with Cremated Ashes

Plant a Tree in Memory of a Loved One

You may have heard of planting ashes to grow a tree. It’s not just a novelty — it’s a real thing!

However, it’s still a new and perhaps strange idea to many, so here is the lowdown on our memorial tree urns.

Tree urns are biodegradable, ceramic-based vessels that hold a small amount of ashes (35 cubic inches, proportionally equivalent of about 35 pounds of pre-cremated body weight).

The urn itself includes a proprietary blend of materials that actually uses the remains to help the tree grow strong and healthy. The lid to the urn has a small hatch for the tree seeds to sprout through. You can choose from over a dozen varieties, or you can choose your own seeds.

Complete instructions are included but here is the condensed version:

  1. Place the cremated remains in the urn
  2. Prep the seeds (if necessary) according to the package, and
  3. Plant it!

Fairly simple!

These memorial tree urns are a very meaningful way to pay tribute to the memory of a special person by planting seeds of life, and are one of my favorite memorial tree ideas.

Related: How to Bury an Urn

4. Send a Tree to a Loved One

Memorial Tree Ideas

As noted above, after a death many people will give or receive funeral flowers, which look wonderful for a few days or weeks until they whither and die.

You can help avoid this depressing reminder of mortality by giving, instead of flowers, something they can grow: a memorial tree.

Whether this is seeds, saplings, or a potted plant is up to you. Note that this will be something to care for, so you may want to really consider the recipient and everything they’re going through before giving a gift that requires care.

Alternatively, you can have a memorial tree planted in their loved one’s honor in a national forest, and they’ll get a certificate and GPS coordinates. And no guilt over a withering tree or plant.

5. Spreading Ashes Around the Tree

Because a memorial tree is meant to be a permanent natural fixture, it is ideal for pinpointing exactly where your loved one’s cremains were laid to rest.

When it comes to actually scattering the ashes around the tree, my best piece of advice would be this: don’t overthink it. You can scatter the ashes by yourself, or even host a memorial service if you want to. This part is totally up to you.

To begin scattering, simply hold the open cremation container at a careful angle and start scattering. Be sure to have your back against any wind that may unexpectedly blow some of the ashes back at you! (But if by chance this does happen to you, it’s completely okay.)

Marking the Location of Your Memorial Tree

Think about the last time you visited a cemetery or memorial garden. Chances are you noticed several different types of headstones and grave markers. Similarly, you can choose to mark the location of your memorial tree through the dedication of a marker.

You may choose to plant a tree in memory with plaque. Or, you may choose a garden stake, a flush marker, a tree tag, or even a headstone to mark your loved one’s final resting place. Or, instead of a traditional marker, you may plant your loved one’s favorite flowers, or place beautiful rocks or gemstones around where their ashes were scattered.

You may now be thinking, okay, but where can I plant a tree in memory of my loved one? Well, while your options are virtually limitless if the memorial tree is planted on your own property, in the case it is planted on public property or state land, keep in mind that there may be separate rules for you to adhere to regarding memorial markers.

What to Say at a Tree Planting Memorial

Now let’s take a look at some ideas concerning what to say when planting a tree in memory of someone special.

1. “Today, let’s not focus on the sadness and the sickness and the death. As we look toward the growth and beauty and sheer life of this tree, let’s remember [loved one’s name] as they were when we think back to our fondest memories of them: happy, healthy, and full of life and promise.”

2. “When the root is deep, there is no need to fear the wind.” African Proverb

3. “[Loved one’s name] absolutely loved to be out in nature. As we mourn our loss and continue to feel the longing for the beautiful soul who has gone before us, let us remember them with a smile every time we pass by this beautiful tree.”

4. “The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth, and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the animals of the field lived and in whose branches the birds of the sky settled…” Daniel 4:20-22

5. “We love you dearly, [loved one’s name]. Every time we visit here and look up into the branches of this glorious tree, rays of sunshine beaming down, we will remember you and the way you lit our hearts with that same warmness.”

6. “Be like a tree. Stay grounded, keep going, and know when to let go.” Anonymous

Have you ever attended a tribute tree ceremony for a loved one? Or have you ever hosted or helped to plan one? I’d love to hear about it. Please feel free to share your experience in a comment below, or any other tree memorial ideas you may have.

Read Next: 11 Living Memorials to Honor a Loved One

Plant a Tree In Memory of a Loved One
Photo of author


Daniel Szczesniak

Daniel has been working in the funeral industry since 2010, speaking directly to grieving families as they made funeral arrangements. He began researching and publishing funeral articles on this website as part of his role as product and marketing manager...

4 thoughts on “How to Plant a Tree In Memory of a Loved One”

  1. I would like to plant 3 trees each for 4 members of my family – preferably in the West Midlands. Sutton Park may be a suitable location. I would then like 3 trees planted in my name when I die.

    I would like more information on whether a plaque with all the details of the deceased will be placed on one of the trees. Obviously, my Executor will have to contact you with the appropriate instructions and payment will be paid after Probate has been settled.

    I would appreciate your comments and further information.

  2. Hi Mrs Timimi,

    The memorial trees that we offer are empty containers (for the ashes) with tree seeds and growth medium. You would need to arrange and oversee the planting at the location of your choice, so in that case yes, you can place a plaque on or near the trees to commemorate the decedent. If this is for yourself, then you would likely need to arrange with a family member exactly what you want done and how to do it. Again, we would simply ship you the empty urn, which would then need to be filled and planted. Hope this helps!

  3. Hi Edward,

    It depends on what type of tree you a planting! For a memorial tree urn that uses the cremated remains to grow a “living memorial” tree, expect $100-200. For a tree planted on your loved one’s behalf, prices range from $10-100. And if you want to go plant your own seeds or sapling, check out your local garden center or nursery. You’ll find seeds for a little as a few dollars, and young trees that you can plant for $25-100. Hope this helps!

Leave a Comment