Kids will gradually navigate to the odd, unusual and eerie-shaped plants, as they become more comfortable with their gardening abilities. Child-gardeners are no different than their adult counterparts; they want to grow beyond the everyday plants.
How many times have we noticed kids gathered around the collection of Venus flytrap plants encased in clear plastic pots with domed lids on a bench at a greenhouse?
Unfortunately, the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a difficult plant to successfully grow long-term and requires a specialized consistent environment.
You want to find that balance; between the eerily creepy looking plants and difficult-to-grow plants, which will give your child-gardener satisfaction growing the odd and unusual flora.
Eerie Plants’ Perfect Halloween Holiday
Autumn, and the accompanying holidays, signal the last chance for decorating an outdoor garden with living plants before winter arrives for many gardeners. Halloween evokes a special affection for the spooky plants we may ignore the rest of the year. An unusual Halloween-style plant could be a short-term annual find or a specimen plant that your child will baby year after year.
A plant eating a bug makes perfect imagery around a ghost and goblin holiday, and gardeners add many colors that scream, “Trick or treat,” to dress up a haunted house.
Black and Orange on Cat-faced Pansies
Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are plants we put in autumn gardens because – despite the late fall frosts – its faces will still be there to greet you on Halloween. Pansies fit into small pots or among
bigger landscapes in fall, because pansies thrive in cooler temperatures.
Pansies have round smiling faces. The blooms are approximately 1” – 3” across with petals overlapping and come in a variety of colors and patterns.
There are pure black and pure orange or cat-faced pansies with fine whisker-lines painted out from the center. Autumn Frills has a frilly yellow background highlighted with dark purple picotee edging, for example.
Hybrid Orchids with Pouches
Orchids use to be exotic plants only collectors could grow. Now in the 21st century, orchids are so easily available – you can buy them in the grocery store – so this lovely flower has become commonplace. Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis sp. or x) may not be as scary-feeling as they once were, but a spray of white moth orchids highlighted in a dark room still produces a ghostly aura on a Halloween night.
A hybrid lady slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum,) a sub family of lady slippers (Cypripedioideae,) makes a compact one-time plant or as part of a collection of orchids for kids who have proven their garden prowess.
Lady slipper orchids can grow outdoors. Given their high cost, gardeners usually place them in a protective location, but many cultivate hybrids as houseplants. All lady slipper orchids have the characteristic pouch-like feature. In the wild, the pouch traps insects who are seeking nectar. Indoors, modern hybrid orchids are easier than others to grow, but more expensive than simple annuals and herb plants: Orchids are a better buy for gardeners who demonstrate the long-view interest in growing plants.
Gardeners manipulate plants to appear unusual by grafting or using bonsai techniques. A common example of grafting is the brightly unnatural globe-like cactus (Gymnocalycium) grafted onto a standard green-base plant (Hylocereus.) Sold cheaply at drug and dime stores, these plants have very little growth potential: This is a short-lived example that discourages many new gardeners from ever growing a plant again.
A euphorbia or another kind of succulent grafted onto a green base, however, can make an interesting houseplant. Grafted succulents have an eerie Frankenstein-like appearance that is fun for the season but will last longer if you meet its cultural needs.
Gardeners who grow bonsai dedicate many hours over the years bending plant stems and the trunks of small trees into works of living art. Bonsai is a specialized type of gardening that requires patience and specific tools. Child-gardeners who like a singular plant-project may want to give it a try, and create their own piece of Frankenstein-art.
Collecting Odd Plants All Year Long
You may think some garden plants are odd for their name or the way they look, or sometimes both. The cockscomb (Celosia cristata) for example, has a crested flower that is valued for its unusual form and soft-to-the-touch feel. Cockscomb is very dramatic in a bouquet, so for kids who want to grow a cutting garden this is a must have.
Child-gardeners are like grown-up plant lovers where odd and unusual plants are concerned. Once you become hooked on gardening, all gardeners are susceptible to the disease of collecting odd and unusual plants – no matter what fills the rest of their gardens.
Still, Steven M. Manual of Herbaceous Ornamental Plants. (1994). Stipes Publishing L.L.C.
Burpee. Pansies. Accessed October 31, 2013.
McDonald, Elvin. 100 Orchids for the American Gardener. (1998).Workman Publishing and Smith & Hawken.
Ombrello, Dr. Thomas. Grafted Cacti. Plant of the Week. Biology Department, Union County College, New Jersey. Accessed October 31, 2013.
Gettle, Jere and Emilee. 2013, Pure Seed Book. (2013). Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Page 176 – 178.