By Lauren Hill
Check out the Gardening Indoors as a Family Infographic below the article!
Children and gardens just naturally go together, but not everyone has the yard space to accommodate aspiring gardeners. Many of the parents I speak with about indoor gardening have little or no outdoor space at all. Indoor gardening is a wonderful family activity that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Some creativity is required to make and maintain house plants, flower boxes, and other indoor garden spaces, so I will share some tips with you.
Before you begin
Before you invest in a lot of gardening supplies, you have to honestly assess your growing conditions.
- How many hours of direct sunlight does your home get?
- Which rooms are sunniest?
- How much does the available sunlight change throughout the year?
- Are your children mature enough to assist with plant care chores?
Plant growth is impacted – for better or worse – by the available amount of sunlight, ambient temperature, and humidity. Conditions inside homes are usually less humid than outdoors. Indoor temperatures may be considerably different than those outside; up to ten degrees difference is not unusual during temperate times of the year and the contrast is even more pronounced when outdoor temperatures reach their seasonal extremes. The sunny window that seems perfect in spring may get too hot during the height of summer.
Once established, most houseplants are pretty hardy. If you are growing plants from seed then more effort will be required on a regular basis. Young children in particular are prone to forgetting plant-care chores and may accidentally harm seedlings by overwatering. You can supervise these chores or let young children assist as you measure out the right amount of water. Simple tasks such as watering and removing dead leaves take only a few minutes; this can be a moment of together time instead of chore time.
Tip one: Select indoor-friendly and kid-friendly plants
Once you have assessed the growing conditions of your living space, you can begin to select some plants. People who work at garden centers and nurseries can point you towards numerous flowers, herbs, succulents, vegetables, and even trees that grow easily indoors. You will need to be specific about the amount of sunlight your growing rooms receive. Even heat-happy plants like succulents can wither under too much direct sunlight day after day. On the other hand, most culinary herbs will not thrive unless they receive a good measure of direct sunlight each day. Garden center workers can help you select plants that are best suited to your home’s particular growing conditions.
This is a list of some of my personal favorite houseplants. I have found them to be very easy to care for and enjoyable to grow. These plants like mixed sunny/shady conditions and can be kept in most rooms of a home or office. For more specific information on their care needs, refer to a houseplant encyclopedia or reference guide.
- Christmas Cactus – A succulent that will bloom throughout the year and in winter especially. Perfect for sunny spots.
- Spider Plant – A container gardener’s dream. Requires minimal care and spreads quickly. The runners can be clipped and potted to grow a new plant.
- Pothos – A dark green leafy vining plant. This is a favorite of office workers and other people whose growing space receives little direct sunlight.
- Snake Plant – Another leafy houseplant. This plant has long tapered leaves in beautiful mottled greens and yellows. It makes an eye-catching room accent and has minimal care needs.
- Fancy Leaf Begonia – This non-flowering begonia is prized for its large, textured, multicolored leaves. It is a very popular houseplant and can be purchased just about anywhere that plants are sold.
Some houseplants are not very kid-friendly and can cause a toxic reaction if eaten. To prevent any unhappy accidents, do a little research on each of the plants you would like to grow at home. You can also ask garden center associates for family-friendly recommendations, and you can opt to grow edible plants, such as culinary herbs, if you are concerned about inquisitive mouths.
Tip two: Create a dedicated garden space
Much of what attracts children to the idea of gardening is the image of a dedicated space that is set apart from the surrounding environment. This is what many adults enjoy about gardens, too! Even indoor gardens can be a special haven with a little creativity.
As a family, shop for a few attractive planters. All garden centers will have numerous styles of colorful decorative ceramic and plastic pots. Even plain orange flowerpots can be given a makeover. Select a few plain plastic or ceramic pots and buy some markers and paints. Let your kids cover the flowerpots with pictures and geometric designs. Stickers can also be used to decorate the pots. A set of alphabet stickers can be used to spell out the names of each of the plants you are growing.
Decorated pots help create a visual space that is different than the rest of your home. This colorful spot will certainly draw many compliments!
Tip three: Develop a schedule for plant care
Neglecting to give indoor plants adequate care is an unfortunate trend I have observed among first time indoor gardeners. This is due in large part to the assumption that plants can take care of themselves. As a general rule, most plants do not require much help from people to grow, but indoor plants are subjected to a different set of environmental circumstances than outdoor plants are. They therefore require attention on a more regular basis.
Use the information given to you by the employees at the garden center to begin developing your plant care schedule with your children. Additional information can be found online, in a plant encyclopedia, and even on the plastic info tags that come with most plants sold in nurseries. You need to know how much water to give each plant and how often. If necessary, create a simple chore chart to help distribute the responsibility evenly. Watering is the most necessary chore, though clearing out dead leaves and moving seedlings to and from sunny areas may also need to be done.
Tip four: Learn about long term plant care
Perennial houseplants will grow for many years with proper care and attention. Every indoor gardener should know a few things about insect pests, mold, mildew, and other problems that commonly affect plants kept indoors. You may wish to invest in a copy of a good houseplant encyclopedia. These books contain a wealth of information relevant to growing plants in pots, window boxes, and hanging planters.
Young children are sometimes frustrated with how much time it takes plants to grow to maturity, especially if you have started plants from seeds. After the initial excitement of selecting containers, picking plants, and waiting for seeds to germinate, there is not much left to do for an indoor garden except a little regular tending. You can sustain interest in gardening by visiting parks, botanical gardens, and arboretums as a family. Some cities have community gardens where many families grow vegetables and flowers. Seeing other plants and other gardens can help sustain the interest of the youngest gardeners.
Tip five: Don’t give up!
Gardening – indoors or outside – takes a lot of practice. Even if you select your plants carefully, study up, and apply the right amount of fertilizer, you might discover that one day your flowerpot just has a few dry twigs inside it. All gardeners have to contend with failures along the way. It is important to keep trying. If the seedlings your children tried to grow in spring did not survive long, try another batch next year. Before you know it, your family’s hard work will be rewarded. Your kids will soon be enjoying beautiful flowers, vegetables, and herbs that they have grown themselves.
Lauren Hill is a wife, mom and freelance writer. She is passionate about gardening and is always trying to find fun ways to encourage that same love in her children. You can follow Lauren on her blog where she covers a multitude of topics.
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