Many people who enjoy growing plants like to grow them in pots for the beauty these living things add to their home.
These plant lovers naturally want their children to acquire a similar love for the amazing world of plants and learn how plants grow.
However, in their sincere but clumsy curiosity, any child is apt to hurt, or even destroy, favorite houseplants.
As a result, kids are often forbidden to touch, treating them almost as “poisonous plants” like poison ivy.
The child may then grow up with the attitude that plants are not to be touched but only enjoyed from a distance.
A good way to avoid this “plant defense” attitude is to let the child have their own plants they are responsible to care for in their room.
What Kinds Of Plants For Kids Are Best?
The question immediately arises as to what different types of plants do well under a child’s care. What kinds hold the brief but intense interest of a child.
Some are definitely not suitable, for one reason or another.
For example, a child, unlike an African violet fancier, is not interested in the subtle different colors among the varieties.
Neither do they have the patience to wait extended periods of time for plants to grow and flower.
Nursing a cyclamen corm through the summer, then coaxing it into winter bloom is a project much too slow and exacting to hold a kid’s interest.
Nonetheless, there are many plants which are easy and rewarding. Carnivorous plants like the Venus Flytrap is a good example.
Some plants can be successful under a child’s care include those which flower quickly and easily, vegetables and fruits, and quick-growing seeds.
Also, suitable candidates are plants with interesting foliage textures, as well as any that were particularly easy to care for.
Perhaps the most welcome of all in a child’s room are kinds with bright colors, which come into flower quickly and easily.
Three of the most well-known and most often-grown bulbs are in this group.
Paper-white narcissus (Narcissus) is first on the list. Bulbs, available everywhere, are inexpensive and always successful unless the child’s room is unusually hot and dry.
Fragrant flowers come into blossom in only a few weeks and are very appealing.
The small, easily grown rosette oxalis (Oxalis) will flower in about eight weeks and continue all winter.
If parents can afford the luxury of putting an amaryllis into the child’s hands, the youngster will be able to have the reward of seeing it unfold its spectacular beauty.
A good amaryllis bulb never fails to bloom.
In addition to bulbs, other flowering plants are good choices for the child.
- Perpetual begonia (Begonia semperflorens), as its name suggests, is in flower almost constantly, and does well under average home conditions.
- Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) blooms for months, and its bright flower clusters are intriguing to a child.
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables as houseplants have a special appeal that no one, child or adult, can resist.
Many are very attractive, while others are desirable because they are fast-growing.
An onion or a sweet potato placed in a glass or jars of water, grows very quickly.
The onion sends up long, slim, light green leaves, closely resembling those of its cousin, the narcissus.
On the other hand, a sweet potato will rapidly produce a vine of heart-shaped leaves.
In addition to the beauty which the leaves of these vegetables offer, they have an advantage of extra interest for a child.
Gaining a child’s interest pays off in the future when kids begin growing their own food.
They can watch with curiosity, from day to day, the growth of the fine white roots.
Beets and carrots are fun to try, too. Their ends are cut off and placed in damp sand or pebbles.
Also, fun to grow are various fruit seeds.
Some of the easiest are the lemon, orange, and grapefruit.
Although they take a fairly long time to sprout and grow very slowly, it is thrilling when “new plants” finally appear, especially if they came from the orange the child had for breakfast one morning.
Try also seeds of apple, pear, and plum.
The “alligator pear” or avocado seed or pit grows very rapidly.
Each fruit has one large seed, and when planted and given a chance to make some roots, it glows so quickly that it becomes a two-foot tree in a few months.
Under ordinary home conditions, none of these seeds will ever produce anything except leaves – no flowers or fruits.
Yet the interest they provoke in a child makes them well worthwhile.
There are two kinds of seeds which deserve to be in a category all by themselves because they grow so fast that even the youngest children will be fascinated by watching how plants grow and what happens to them.
The first is ordinary grass seed, with bluegrass a good choice, when available.
Seeds can be planted in a regular flower pot in soil or around the edges of other flower pots which have plants in them.
Another way and perhaps the most interesting of all is to scatter the seed on top of a sponge placed in a dish of water.
In any event, the seeds will sprout in a day or two, and in a week there is new grass for the child. As it grows taller, it can be cut with scissors.
Another fast growing seed is the Mung bean (Phaseolus aureus).
Seeds grow almost as fast as Jack’s famous beanstalk.
Seeds can be purchased at health food stores or a Chinese grocery store for a modest price.
Plant them thickly, and in two or three days you will recognize the “bean sprouts” that are an important vegetable in a Chinese meal.
If the child keeps watering them and allows them to grow on, they will last for many weeks.
Attractive as a decoration as well as to a cat and other small animals, the beans will even grow in sand, if it is kept wet, but will not last so long when handled this way.
Jade Plants And Succulents Have Appeal
Kids are definitely interested in succulent plants which have unusual textures like the fuzzy silvery-green leaves of the Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina).
I’ve watched younger children, as they could not keep away from my jade plant (Crassula argentea). They keep pinching the plant or trying to bite the pudgy leaves.
Kitten’s ear (Cyanotis somaliensis) and Teddy Bear vine (Cyanotis kewenisis) both have leaves whose undersides are soft to the touch.
Also soft and furry are the catkins of branches of pussy willow (Salix discolor), which can be cut and brought indoors to open.
The spiny leaves of many plants in the cactus family are curious and fascinating to a child.
Tough House Plants For Kids
One further possibility for a child’s room is to keep a small group of some of the standard houseplant which will live from year to year, as the other plants move in and out.
Most of these amazing plants will thrive under a child’s care, as they will stand an unbelievable amount of neglect (drought tolerant) or over-watering (as the case may be) before they give up.
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema) many new plant varieties available.
- Heart-leaved philodendron (Philodendron cordatum), a good choice and old-time houseplants.
- ZZ Plant – Zamiocalcus zamiofolia
- Mother in law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Common aspidistra (Aspidistra elatior)
All known among plant growers as being tough and long-lived.
Try Some Vines
The grape ivy vine and kangaroo vine, which grow fast, are appropriate candidates, too. All of these will grow either in soil or water.
Or, if one grows too large, the child can cut off a few vine tips and place them in water to watch the roots develop.
Among the reasons for encouraging a child to own and care for some plants in their room, and an important one is that they can feel the satisfaction of caring for them as they grow.
The other reason is that it gives the plant-loving parent an extra room in the home for growing things.