Your child wants to grow a garden. You have the location picked out and have brought home prepackaged potting soil for a container, or dug organic soil into a planting bed outside.
The time has come to pick plants easy enough for your child to grow.
People who are first-time gardeners may show no rhyme or reason in picking their plants, and there is no reason to expect more from kids. The array of plants on the market is overwhelming even for the most seasoned gardener.
However, the easiest plants to grow make the best first-plant ideas for kids.
All gardeners will have plants die, but in the beginning, for new gardeners, it helps build confidence to experience success in the first year.
Characteristics of Plants That Are Easy to Grow
Labeling a plant ‘easy-to-grow’ requires answering some basic questions to narrow its characteristics.
- What is the type of weather conditions and soil the plant requires for thriving?
- Does the plant have a basic structural form, or is it complicated, requiring pruning?
- How big will the plant grow?
- What needs does the plant have for a long life?
The easier plants to grow are not always the prettiest. But, a gardener is often driven by vast benches of color stretching out at the local garden center when choosing plants, and kids are apt to face similar dilemmas; consider the number of colors in a 64-pack box of crayons.
Gardening can also be motivated by other interests. People who watch birds may grow a garden to attract them to the backyard: people who love to cook may grow a kitchen garden for fresh food; or people who love making crafts may grow their own plant material.
Children also come to gardening in many ways and this may influence a child’s level of determination in wanting to grow a particular plant.
Colorful Annual Plants Kids Like
Annual plants survive one growing season and while some of the choices here can be overwintered, children who want to first try gardening to see if they like it will have good success with annual plants. Annuals are inexpensive and only require well-draining average gardening or potting soil.
The easiest, most colorful group of plants for kids is coleus (Solenostemon scutellariodes.) The coleus is grown for its leaves and not the flowers. Coleus is considered versatile for its ability to grow outside in a planting bed or in containers, outside or indoors.
The species has been hybridized into many cultivars, especially for sunnier gardens, but a part-shade location outside or a brightly lit room away from direct sun indoors is sufficient. Coleus requires weekly watering, and a basic fertilizer treatment to thrive.
Another group of colorful faces, quite literally, is violas (Viola tricolor) and pansies (Viola cornuta.) The small colorful flowers are grown in cool weather outside during spring and fall. Kids who want to dabble in growing plants but do not want to spend their entire summer in a garden will enjoy these small plants. Annual violas have easy cultural requirements and you can clear the dead flowers away with your fingers.
Annual geraniums (Pelargonium) are produced in zonal, ivy, scented or Martha Washington varieties. Zonal geraniums grow the largest flowers without being costly to purchase.
The leaves are soft to the touch and the colors are many. Geraniums do attract butterflies to a garden and are favored for being the basis of an easy mixed combination planted in one container.
Annual geraniums require deadheading like violas: teaching a new gardener to nip off a dying flower (called deadheading) is a good first-time plant-care skill to master.
Kids’ Plants That Grow Well From Seeds
The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a best first-seed for kids, although transplants can be purchased, too.
The seed pods are large enough for little fingers to handle, and they simply push seeds into holes with a finger. The plants withstand dry summers and the flowers result in a bounty, which produce seeds for cooking in the kitchen or to share with the birds.
Shorter hybrid versions of sunflower plants make it easier for younger kids to manage and offer children many more colors beyond the common yellow.
A collection of small vegetable plants and herbs are referred to as cut-and-come-again plants, because the plants can be harvested by snipping the plant with sharp scissors but then will grow back to be harvested again later. Leaf lettuces, microgreens and herbs, such as chives, are examples of cut-and-come-again plants. Leaf lettuces, microgreens and some herbs can be grown indoors, as well.
The nasturtium (Nasturtium sp.) is another traditional children’s plant, many times grown in a kitchen garden. When grown in a garden where pesticides are not used, the flowers of a nasturtium are edible, and your kids can harvest the blooms to put in a salad or to decorate a cake.
Create an Indoor Garden with Houseplants
Gardening is one hobby that kids can pursue with equal enthusiasm outdoors or inside. The type of plants and style of gardens plant-lovers like to grow are as wide and varied as are the kinds of people in the world.
Kids can grow a garden indoors with the help of many easy houseplants from which to choose. Common tropical green plants like the Swedish ivy (Plectranthus) is one easy idea.
The African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) is a flowering plant that gives off that difficult-to-grow air for its pretty flowers, fuzzy leaves and from competing in fashionable state fair shows for ribbons. But, do not be dissuaded by its reputation.
The African violet requires a richer potting soil, labeled and sold in prepackaged bags, and it must be watered without dripping onto its leaves and placed in an east-facing window. One plant in an interesting pot can make a reasonable first garden for a child who wants to try gardening.
Gardening for Kids
There are a host of plants that children can grow easily, so don’t be intimidated by the rows of varieties at your local garden center. Kids who want to grow their first garden will have similar challenges finding the best plants that will fit the location, growing conditions and desires of the new gardener. Now let them pick their plants, and dig in!
Rogers, R. Coleus: Rainbow Foliage for Containers and Gardens. (2008). Timber Press.
Patton, Dennis. Removing Spent Flowers/Deadheading. InfoNet. Accessed September 16, 2013.
Barclay, Eliza. Introducing Microgreens: Younger, And Maybe More Nutritious, Vegetables. (2012). The Salt/NPR. Accessed September 16, 2013.
National Garden Bureau, Inc. 2013 Varieties. (2013). Accessed September 16, 2013.© Copyright 2013 Chris Eirschele, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting