Like some hobbies, kids can get involved in gardening and plant care at an early age. Indoor plants are a great way to get children enthusiastic about gardening and science because houseplants can be cared for year-round and are fairly straight forward and inexpensive.
Houseplants are easier than ever to purchase and the best ones for kids are often the most affordable – meaning a few mishaps or dead plants can easily be replaced with new ones.
When searching for houseplants for children, focus on foliage plants that tolerate lower light and are slower growing – plants like these often have lower watering and light demands. Try to select plants that are relatively trouble-free and not particularly prone to pests, leaf tipping or shedding. Good starter plants for children include:
Philodendrons – both vining and non-vining types.
Philodendron cordatum (Heart Leaf Philodendron) is especially trouble and pest-free, inexpensive and easy to care for in almost any environment. A number of newer Philodendrons have bright colors like neon green, orange and reds.
Pothos (Epipremnum) are widely available, inexpensive, easy to care for and comes in a variety of leaf colors.
ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamifolia) is a newer plant type with very interesting, waxy leaves. It doesn’t need to be watered often, isn’t susceptible to most pests and tolerates lower light. Avoid over-watering this plant!
Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) has elongated, wispy leaves that are thick and fleshy. It’s available in a variety of colors and patterns. It is another low maintenance plant that does not need to be watered often, tolerates lower light and is susceptible to few pests. Like the ZZ plant, it prefers to be on the dry side and should not be over-watered. Dwarf varieties are available.
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) have larger leaves available in a wide range of patterns and increasingly in a variety of colors, including pinks and reds. Aglaonema makes a great interior plant and develops new growth even when not in direct light. It has average watering needs – avoid over-watering.
Carnivorous (meat-eating) plants include Venus Fly Trap, Pitcher Plant and Sun-dew plants. Although not necessarily the easiest plants to care for, these plants often provoke much imagination, interest and intrigue from kids, especially when they “eat” another insect.
The key to caring for most carnivorous plants is to keep them in a terrarium (often provided) to keep humidity high. Most carnivorous plants must be grown in sphagnum moss or a similar soil. Water with distilled water only and avoid tap water, fertilizers or any chemicals and provide bright indirect light or even direct sunlight.
Although tempting, avoid feeding Venus Fly Traps too often and only feed them small insects like ants or flies.
A trap often dies after it has “fed” on another insect, especially larger insects. Although most carnivorous plants can live without being fed insects, children will naturally want to feed them.
Consider feeding one trap on a plant a small insect about once or twice a month. Interestingly, many carnivorous plants are indigenous to the United States, including Venus Fly Trap (native to North and South Carolina) and many Pitcher Plants being native to the Southeastern US and parts of coastal Oregon and California.
Aloe vera is another common houseplant that has low watering needs but enjoys brighter light. Aloe vera is very well-known for its healing medicinal properties and is found in many over-the-counter skin-healing ointments. Like all succulents, avoid over-watering Aloe vera and provide it higher light.
Other Good Houseplants for Kids
There are many other houseplants for kids, including a variety of miniature palms, succulents such as cacti, ivies and others. If they are seeking a taller, larger plant, a cane Dracaena may be a good option.
Growing and caring for houseplants is a constructive, educational and therapeutic activity for kids that should be take advantage of. It’s a positive break that reconnects them to the calming powers of nature.
Green Side Up,
Matt Kostelnick, Senior Horticulturist at Ambius
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