30 May 2019

Planting a tree in memory of a loved one is a beautiful, lasting and natural way to honour them.

There are many ways to leave a memorial for someone out in the world, from a gravestone in a churchyard, a plaque on a building they once lived in, to a bench in their favourite park.

If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees
- Hal Borland

But perhaps one of the most enduring and reassuring memorials we can place for our loved ones is a tree planted in their honour. Not only will the tree be there for years, decades and sometimes even centuries to come, it grows, changes and develops over time.

Green fields surrounded by trees with three trees standing prominently throughout the frame

Photo by Oliver Olah on Unsplash

A memorial tree will change and grow over time, just as your relationship with that person did. You can visit and revisit it, think about the time spent with them, and watch your memorial tree reach for the sky as you discover a deeper appreciation for the moments you shared.

What is the best tree to plant in memory of someone?

There is no one tree that’s best for planting as a memorial tree. The choice will always be a unique one, based on the personality of your loved one, if they had a particular love for certain types of trees or had a connection to a certain place.

If they loved holidays in Greece for example, then maybe an olive tree would be most appropriate. If you have treasured memories sitting under an oak tree with them, then that type of tree might be best.

An olive sapling poking up through dry ground
Photo by WikimediaImages on Pixabay

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s able to grow in the climate you’re planting it in. Many sites, such as National Trust areas, will encourage you to choose native species to plant.

This is firstly because they are already a known part of the ecosystem and won’t throw any natural balances out of line. But it’s also because a native species has the greatest chance of surviving to maturity, having evolved to thrive in local surroundings.

What types of memorial tree can I choose?

Choosing the right tree to plant in memory of someone might come down to what that particular tree represents. Here are some of the most popular trees and the meanings behind them:

Oak leaves with acorns ripening on them
Photo by IIona Frey on Pixabay

Oak trees are most associated with strength and courage. Often referred to as ‘The Mighty Oak’, looking at examples which have lived for many centuries, it’s easy to understand why.

Olive branches with olives ripening on them
Photo by Julie Kolibrie on Pixabay

Olive trees have been known since biblical times as a symbol of peace and friendship. As a memorial, an olive tree could represent the enduring relationship between you and a loved one.

An orchard full of ripening apples
Photo by Lumix2004 on Pixabay

Apple trees and their delicious fruit are a common symbol of health and vitality. They can be a refreshing memorial of the life you spent with your loved one. Seeing their fruit grow can be a beautiful reminder of how new life is always appearing, even after loss.

A pile of hazel nuts
Photo by Ralph Klein on Pixabay

Hazel trees have been recognised since ancient times as representing wisdom and knowledge. If you’re planting a memorial tree for someone who you felt gave special insight and sage advice, then this tree might be perfect.

Where can I plant a memory tree?

If you have a garden at your home, you could plant a memorial tree there and enjoy watching it grow whenever you look out on it.

If you don’t have a garden, you can always grow a memorial tree in a pot which you can keep in your home and if you ever choose to, plant somewhere special.

A top down view of a plant growing in a pot
Photo by Peter Zagar on Unsplash

If you would rather plant your memorial tree out in the world, you can potentially plant a tree anywhere, so long as you have the permission of the land owner.

You might want to plant your tree in a memorial garden, which are places designed for quiet reflection and the honouring of treasured memories.

If you had a particular park where you liked to spend time with your loved one, or a spot in the countryside you would walk to, then that could be the perfect place. Do remember that you will need to find out who owns the land and ask if they would be willing to let you plant a tree there first.

It’s important to remember that should the land you plant your memorial tree in change hands, you may be unable to visit it in the future.

If you plan on planting a memorial tree in the UK, you could plant a tree in memory with the National Trust. The National Trust will look after your tree and make sure it has everything it needs to grow strong and tall. You can visit whenever the grounds are open, safe in the knowledge that as long as they exist, you will have access to your memorial tree.

What memorial tree alternatives are there?

A memorial plaque for a tree might be a nice alternative if you don’t have the space to plant a tree in your home or the opportunity to get out and plant one yourself. If your loved one had a particular tree they loved, it might be appropriate to see if you could have a plaque dedicated to them placed nearby.

A woman walking beneath the boughs of an old tree

Photo by Kevin Young on Unsplash

For an interesting alternative that ‘grows’ in an unexpected way, a company has begun selling metallic memorial trees. They begin their life with bare branches made with untarnished metal but they develop in an interesting fashion.

Over time, leaves are added with details of people who have died etched into them and the branches and trunk weather and rust. They are artistic memorials that grow and change over time, just like their natural counterparts.