Garden of Eatin' / Parenthood

Planting My Placenta: An 18-Month Update

Planting my placenta: an 18-month update

If you’ve been following my parenthood posts on this blog, you may remember that after the birth of my daughter last year, I decided to take my placenta home and plant it under a tree. It was actually a container citrus tree, since we didn’t know at the time if we’d stay in California, and we wanted to be able to take the tree with us should we move.

Well, we’ve moved! And we brought the blood orange tree to Oregon with us, where it’s now overwintering in our insulated garage next to a window. It survived the long trek in a trailer and has been thriving since we potted it last year, and I know many of you were curious as to how it’s grown with the placenta buried under it.

Right before the move a month ago, this is what our tree looked like.

Blood orange tree

We transplanted it in a larger fabric pot (a 20-gallon non-degradable Root Pouch) in preparation for the move, and will keep it in the fabric pot for the next couple years until we build a permanent greenhouse.

Eighteen months post-planting, the placenta has long decomposed in the potting soil and we now feed the tree with compost tea and citrus fertilizer. We haven’t seen any signs of fruiting yet, but the tree was only a year or two old when we purchased it. By my guess, fresh oranges are still another year or two away (especially since we need to improve our overwintering situation).

I’ve had so many questions land in my inbox since my original post that I thought I’d address the most popular ones here. If any pregnant gals out there have been wondering what to do with their placentas after birth, burial is certainly worth considering! It’s a wonderful way to honor the time your child spent en caul.

Citrus tree leaves

Did it smell?

No, there was no smell as the placenta decomposed in the pot. In fact, it was way less offensive than other types of fertilizer I’ve used in the past.

Did it attract rodents or other critters?

No. The placenta was buried at least a foot under the tree, and no critters tried to dig it up out of the container. (Keep in mind that we used a fairly large pot, so if you plan to do this, you’ll want a proportionately sized container for the amount of organic material you have.) We also didn’t notice any surge of critter activity after planting it.

Did it leak or drip out of the container as it thawed?

I think this question stems from the fact that I froze my placenta and then buried it while it was still frozen. (You can see a picture of that in the original post.) And no, the placenta did not drip out of the drainage hole as it thawed. There was zero mess and zero odor, and the tree was watered regularly. As I’ve learned, using a placenta as a soil amendment isn’t all that different from using other animal matter, such as fish heads or cow manure. If you can look past the fact that it’s a byproduct of birth, it’s one of the purest forms of organic fertilizer you can use.

Did you notice any difference between the blood orange tree and trees that were given other fertilizers?

It’s hard to say, since my other trees were all in different stages of growth. But after burying the placenta under the blood orange tree, I didn’t fertilize it again for six months. It was green and healthy the whole time, free of pests, and very low-maintenance.

If I had another child and could keep my placenta again, I would — without a doubt — plant it under a new tree. I love looking at Gemma’s blood orange tree and knowing that this beautiful living thing shares a lifeblood with her. When the day comes that she can understand such a concept, it’ll be fun to explain to her how special the tree (and all the fruits it will eventually bear) truly is.

Linda Ly About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »