"Plant a garden!” might not be the first thing your kids say when you ask them what they want to do on a Saturday afternoon, but it can be fun, and it has great benefits! Studies show that children who garden do better on science exams than children who don’t.
Gardening together can also help you bond as a family and teach children responsibility. If you’d like to introduce your children to gardening this summer, consider growing some of these fun, unusual plants to pique your child’s interest in the natural world.
Easily recognized for its sweet fragrance, honeysuckle is a popular favorite among people and pollinators. There are hundreds of honeysuckle varieties, but one of our favorite varieties is the native ‘Coral’ honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). This attractive vine has blue-green leaves and clusters of tubular pink flowers with a touch of yellow. Your kids will love watching the vine grow and seeing hummingbirds sip nectar from the long flowers.
Children are captivated by the impressive little Venus flytrap. It’s thrilling to see the “traps” snap shut when insects land on them. While these plants won’t survive a Maryland winter outdoors, Venus flytraps can be grown indoors. They prefer a lot of moisture and well-drained, acidic soil, so it’s best to grow them in terrariums. Avoid regular potting soil and find something specific to Venus flytraps, or use a mixture of 1/3 sand to 2/3 sphagnum peat moss. In a terrarium, you should avoid placing them in direct summer sunlight as the terrarium can heat up and burn the plant.
A fun part of Venus flytrap care that children will enjoy is feeding them. These plants need to “eat” live flies or small insects every month or so. If you have them in a closed terrarium, you can release a few flies and let your children watch for one to land in the trap.
Another fun plant you can grow indoors with your children is Aloe vera. It’s a low-maintenance plant that is easy to grow, and it’s great for parents too. Aloe vera has succulent leaves with a gel-like interior that’s amazing for treating minor burns like sunburn. Kids will love seeing how different these leaves are compared to other plants they find in the backyard.
Spotted toad lilies are quite impressive. Children will love these strange flowers that look like they belong in a fairy garden. The flowers come in shades of white, purple, and pink, and are spotted with darker shades of these colors. Toad lilies require little care, but do best in rich, moist, well-drained soil. They’re native to woodland edges, so they do best in partial shade.
Perfect for a shady garden, these enchanting little flowers are sure to enamor your little ones. They also bloom in early spring, making them a special treat after a long winter. Their compound leaves give them a fern-like appearance. Leafless stems bear 5-6 flowers, which look a bit like trousers or breeches hanging upside down. In the wild, they grow in woodlands, so they do best in partial to full shade with moist but well-drained acidic soil.
Another Maryland native, Eastern Columbine has bluish-green foliage and cheerful, red flowers that are said to resemble jesters’ caps. They prefer partial shade and well-drained soil. They’re fairly drought tolerant and a good choice if you don’t like to water often. Kids will love their adorable flowers and watching the pollinators they attract, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. As a bonus, plants re-seed in the garden from year to year. Plan a “plant hunt” in the spring for the little ones to locate “volunteers.”
Chinese Long Beans
Sometimes referred to as “yard-long” beans, these plants produce individual beans that can reach up to 3 feet in length! For eating fresh snap beans, harvest when the pods are about 12 inches long, before the seeds begin to fill out. You can also let the beans mature and shell for use as dry beans in soup. They’re very easy to grow, but do require a tall trellis.
If you’d like to get your children interested in gardening, you’ll be much more successful when you grow these unique plant varieties. Fun wins every time with kids! Plus, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy these interesting plants, too!