Suggestions for kid-friendly house plants

mrsmortarmixerFebruary 12, 2013

My daughters are showing a growing interest in my house plants lately. Maybe a little too much, as my peace lilies aren't overly happy with the frequent watering. So I thought I would come here for suggestions.

I have a large south facing window and a smaller east facing window where they will sit. Temperatures vary from 60-70 degrees in the room with occasional drops to 55 when the temps outside get very low. We don't have a store nearby, so they get well water, no water softener, and very high iron.

Ideally, I'm looking for something that doesn't mind getting watered every day or two in small amounts, doesn't mind low quality water, doesn't require a lot of maintenance, can handle direct sunlight, and if it flowers, that would be even better. Is there such a thing? Or something close that you could suggest?

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My daughter loves houseplants too. The first plant she started with was a lucky bamboo. (I know it's not really a bamboo.) It got watered a LOT. This plant meets your requirements, except direct sun will burn its leaves. I really cannot think of a plant that meets every one of the conditions you have. I am interested to read what other suggestions you receive. Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 9:33PM
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Peace lilies in really well aerated chunky orchid mix with a bit of potting mix added in would enjoy frequent watering. Dracaenas (lucky bamboo is one) like frequent watering. Bananas like lots of watering and there are dwarfs. Pothos and spider plant are tolerant enough but there is a spider plant look-alike but with beautiful flowers called Louisiana Walking Iris (found on EBAY) that LOVES to be moist and kids love to make the new babies grow and this is my #1 recommendation as it does regular potting mix while wet). If your local nursery has a pond section some of those will grow as potted houseplants and enjoy frequent watering (some will not mind having the bottom of the pot immersed constantly). Rubber plants seem to like to be consistently moist. Actually many plants will handle frequent watering if their potting mix is well draining enough to allow enough air to get to the roots. It's the lack of air that kills them not the water. If you don't want to bother re-potting into a different mix give your kids their own spray bottle of water (if they're old enough not to spray non-plants) and their own plant (almost anything other than a succulent) and let them have at it. If you get them a plant that can be propagated with a cutting or by dividing you might want to save a bit aside for round 2.

What kids really enjoy is watching seeds sprout and grow and it is cheap and easy too. All you need is some of the biggest clear plastic disposable cups, some opaque cups of equal size to put the clear ones into and a way to put holes in the bottom of the clear ones. You can melt holes with a hot screwdriver which creates toxic fumes or you could possibly use a drill if you have a long enough bit (the cup would have to be bottom side down to avoid cracking and might crack anyways). If you don't want to bother with holes cut the clear cup on 2 opposite sides from the rim to the bottom and then fill with damp potting mix mixed with perlite to help with drainage and insert into opaque cup. Then plant a seed in each cup. I recommend citrus seeds as they usually come true to type and are easy. When the seed sprouts the inner cup can be lifted out of the opaque cup and the roots viewed (carefully in the case of any in cut cups). I would do a cup with many seeds around the edges to see the initial root growth but that would need re-potting or just tossing fairly quickly.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 12:12AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I think your daughter might have a great time with an elephant ear bulb. It requires water almost daily, east window would be super. They have them in bins at WM & L's at this time of year.

Heart-leaf Philodendron and Pothos are fun since they grow quickly and can be trimmed and re-propagated often.

Wax Begonias bloom non-stop.

An east window is great for about any house plants, plenty of light but not the harsh rays of mid-day.

There's no reason your daughter couldn't enjoy whatever plants she thinks are pretty. I would encourage you to use a "soil" that is very chunky and porous, so roots that may get water a little too often aren't in conditions that would cause them to rot. If you teach her to check first to see if plants need water, then take to sink to do so, you'll be teaching her skills she can use for the rest of her life. I think that's pretty cool! If your daughter loves plants, she will probably be eager to learn how to keep them doing well. Even though they're hiding in the soil and we don't see them unless repotting, the roots are the most important part, so a plant should always be grown from the roots up, not from the leaves down.

Then there are plants that can stay alive indefinitely in a cup or vase of water. That can be fun too and if space is limited, this can be a way to have a wider variety. LMK if you'd like some names of these.

Do you have any space for outdoor gardening?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:04AM
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We have a large outdoor garden, and we start seeds inside every year, so they get to see everything start to finish. We've also been starting trees, which has been really fun. They will be replacing some of the trees we lost in a storm a couple years back. However, there isn't a ton of room to keep hundreds of trees in the house, so they stay outside. The house plant idea is all relatively new to me.

The peace lilies I have now are in the mix from the greenhouse. I have no idea what it is, but they seemed pretty content with once to twice weekly watering. They started looking a little sad when they were getting watered daily. I need to read up on different soil types and re-pot this spring. I've hesitated to repot earlier, because they seemed healthy and were constantly producing new growth, and they have a bit of sentimental value, so I'd hate to see them gone.

I will definitely check out all of the suggestions, but I think I'm going to have to get a curtain or blind for the south window. The east and south window are basically in a corner, so they would get both. Very easy fix though.

I had forgotten about spider plant. And the Louisiana Walking Iris sounds lovely for the girls. Are we talking real bananas? I had looked at the mini citrus trees in a catalog once, but figured they would never produce, and it seemed silly to have an orange tree with no oranges.I have fond memories of watering my grandma's rubber plant. I always thought it was plastic and she was just letting me water a fake plant.

In general, I'm just looking for something that isn't too particular about conditions. My philodendrons are pretty content being neglected for long periods of time and continue to grow until they get in my way. I love them for that reason. I also love my hibiscus, but it's in the pantry looking quite sad and waiting for warm spring weather. Maybe I'll just let the girls each pick out a few flowers and hope for the best. Is there a good general mix that works well with many plants?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 1:38AM
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Exoticrainforest .com has soil mix recipe ideas for both spathiphyllums (Peace Lilies) and philodendrons which both have a portion of regular bagged potting mix but have other additions. The soil mixes are at the ends of each article. I don't think there is a good commercial potting mix that works really well as is for indoor plants at least. I almost always add perlite and usually add orchid mix to the potting mix of most houseplants especially the ones that tend to grow as epiphytes such as philodendrons and anthuriums.

The Louisiana Walking Iris looks almost exactly like a plain green spider plant with the same sort of baby spiders but with flat leaves instead of in a V shape (enough alike so that I was fooled when the house I bought came with what was supposed to be a "rare" plant). When it bloomed I was certainly surprised and it turns out the plant is only rare in the sense that nurseries don't carry it so it's more "unusual". Mine is mature and while it prefers frequent watering it doesn't die if it misses watering for looong periods of time but the ends of its leaves get brown and need trimming afterwards. There are 3 forms one which is all blue, a yellow form, and one that is white and blue. Oh, it only blooms once a year and there are a few flowers (a bit like Japanese Iris in miniature) per stalk and they each last a day but then they bizarrely twist themselves up like Candy Lilies do. Come to think of it each plant makes a kind of rhizome thing that grows in one direction like irises - I never thought of it but they are exactly what you'd expect to get if you could hybridize a spider plant with some sort of iris relative.

Yes, the banana is just that. But I've seen dwarf forms On EBAY that are not supposed to get more than a couple of feet high. I highly doubt they'd fruit but they are interesting. One was maybe called "Truly Tiny" or something similar.

I wouldn't bother with buying citrus plants for indoors but I sprouted some tangerine seeds just for fun to see how the parthenogenesis thing works (each seed contains one or more embryos that turn into different numbers of seedlings some genetically like the parent and some a hybrid of two parents). Out of 2 kinds of tangerines (clementine from Spain and Pixie I think) I got one that has leaves slightly different than its other siblings. But I was surprised at how decorative the little plants are. One of the varieties has leaves that look like very shiny dark green rose leaves.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 4:54AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

VERY kid-friendly: Put a yam/sweet potato in a plastic or glass see-through container, such that the root end of the tuber is covered by 2-3" of water (up to half the tuber's ht). Put it on a sunny windowsill. Within a few days, roots will begin to appear, then the vines will begin to grow - and they'll grow fast.

We always had 1 on the window sill when I was a kid. I imagine tubers saved from the plants specifically bred for their interesting foliage would be a special treat, so if you have any sweet potato vine in your outdoor mixed containers, consider pressing the tubers into service after the vines go over.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 1:36PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Vaevictus...the term you mean is polyembryony. I think that's what you're talking about.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:33PM
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How about planting some mimosa pudica or sensitive plant seeds. The plants fold up when touched, which is always fun for kids. I had one once and the little girl next door used to come over and ask if she could see the plant that goes to sleep when it's touched.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 4:10AM
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I love that idea larry b. Thanks to everyone for all of the suggestions. Sounds like I have quite a bit to choose from. Hopefully we can do some shopping soon!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 12:37AM
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