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Kid-Friendly Plants

February 04 2021

Kid-Friendly Plants
Kid-Friendly Plants

Indoor Gardening with Kids

Much has been written on the benefits of teaching kids to garden. They learn an appreciation for nature and its processes, for science and observation, for cause and effect … and they gain patience, delicacy, and an understanding of the true value of plants both as commodity and for their intrinsic beauty. Yet surprisingly little has been written about indoor gardening with kids. 

The same principles and values apply to indoor gardening, along with the added discovery of the home as a place of light and shade, of relative moisture or warmth, and as a place where other gentle beings may grow. Plus, in winter when opportunities for outdoor play is limited, indoor gardening provides a welcome distraction, and plant care a welcome routine.

Below are several fun plants that are easy for kids to grow and care for (with appropriate supervision, of course). Some factors to consider when choosing plants to grow with kids include ease of planting or propagation; complexity of care; how quickly it grows; and … well, the payoff: how interesting the plant is to look at, observe, or harvest.

Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides) 

These delightfully weird-looking plants feature disc-shaped leaves at the tips of long green stems. You do not need to start from seed; we sell 2" potted pilea starts that are ready to go! Pilea like a rich, well-draining potting mix and bright indirect light such as a windowsill. Water when the first inch of soil dries out but don’t let it get overly soggy. 

Level of care. Easy to moderate

Appeal. Fun to look at, grows new foliage continuously

Learning opportunity. Rotate the pot when you notice the plant stretching toward the sunlight—a key building block for its food, like water and soil! 

Q: Why do money plants drop their leaves?

A: So they can rake it in!

Crocodile Fern (Microsorum musifolium)

Unlike its more feathery counterparts, this fern has long, broad, pointed leaves whose texture resembles the leathery skin of a crocodile (or maybe a dinosaur)! But like other ferns, this one likes well-draining soil with plenty of water and bright, indirect sunlight. Humidity is a plus here, so consider placing the crocodile in a kitchen or bathroom. Or use a spray bottle to mist daily!

 Level of care. Very easy

Appeal. Fun to look at, grows new foliage continuously

Learning opportunity. These ferns are epiphytic like air plants: they can grow without any soil, gathering their nutrients from their surroundings. Once the fern is full-grown, try working the plant loose from its pot and gently dividing out a section of it by its roots. Then use cotton thread, fishing line, or thin wire to anchor the new plant by its roots to a piece of driftwood, a decorative rock, or even a coat hanger! (For moisture retention, it may help to place some moss or cotton beneath the roots.)

Q: What do crocodile ferns and dinosaurs have in common?

A: Meteors are bad news for both of them!

Cactus and other succulents

The same traits that make succulents successful in the desert—and popular among people who are forgetful about watering—make them great for teaching kids about indoor gardening. We have nice 2-inch aloe and cactus plants at Watson’s. Some cactus are definitely spiny and should be handled with care, but some are spine-free and very kid-friendly indeed. 

Level of care. Very easy

Appeal. Fun to look at, easy to grow, (some) sense of danger

Learning opportunity. Aloe vera is a kind of succulent, like cactus. Its leaves are filled with a gel that has medicinal properties (but don’t eat it!). Next time you get a cut, bite, or heaven forbid, a burn, cut off a small section and squeeze the gel onto the injury and note how it feels afterwards.

Q: Why was the cactus sent home from the birthday party?

A: He kept popping all the balloons.

 Purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea)

Look, you knew this list would have to have at least one carnivorous plant. Who doesn’t want to see a plant that gets its nutrients from water, soil, sunlight … and bugs?

The purple pitcher plant is the easiest pitcher plant to care for—especially in the northwest—and is one we carry. Give them a well-draining yet moisture-retentive soil like peat moss, and place in moderate to bright sunlight. Keep the soil moist but be sure to let it drain; don’t let the plant sit in soggy soil.

Level of care. Moderate

Appeal. Watch the tiny flies that collect inside the pitcher! It’s eating them!!

Learning opportunity. The very particular conditions that a pitcher plant thrives in tells you something about the bogs where they are native: seasonally moist but deprived of good soil, they need nutrients wherever they can get them!

Q: What did the pitcher plant order at the drive-thru?

A: A burger with flies.


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