Get your kids involved in gardening by planting these really cool kid appealing plants
Sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica)—This tropical groundcover is a kid favorite. Also known as the “tickle-me” plant, it has sensitive green, fernlike leaves and produces small “balls” of pink flowers in mid-summer. The plant’s big kid draw is its leaves: when touched gently, they automatically fold closed, then eventually reopen. Often grown as an annual, the plant thrives in full sun on dry soil and is easy to start indoors from seed.
Lambs’ ears (Stachys byzantine)—This perennial flower is widely adapted and hardy in USDA zones 4 to 10. It grows best in full to part sun. In early summer, the low-growing plant produces one-foot-tall spikes covered with small pink flowers. But its foliage is the main draw for kids. The leaves are covered with a soft, white hairy growth that, when stroked, feels like a lamb’s ear. Don’t be surprised if your kids pick leaves and rub it against their cheek. It’s that soft!
Ground cherry (Physalis pruinosa)—This easy-to-grow vegetable is in the tomato family, but has fruits that look like small Chinese lanterns. Like tomatoes, the low–growing (1- to 2-foot-tall), sprawling plants love the heat. In summer the plant produces an abundance of papery thin lanterns. Once the lanterns turn yellow, kids can pick them, tear open the covering, and discover the 1- to 2-inch-diameter edible golden fruits inside. The fruits have a sweet, tomato flavor that my daughter has loved since preschool. Ground cherries are annuals and self-sow readily in the garden; grow them once and they’ll sprout up on their own in future years.
Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea)—Kids will be amazed to find this common vegetable growing in your garden. Peanuts need at least 120 days of frost-free growing and hot summer temperatures. They grow best in full sun on sandy-loam soil. The 1- to 2-foot-tall and -wide legume looks a lot like a clover plant. However, it has yellow flowers that produce pegs (stem-like growth) after the flowers pass. The pegs grow into the ground around the peanut plant and a peanut shell forms at the end of each peg. Keep the soil cultivated and watered so the pegs can easily penetrate it. Once the plants start to yellow and die, invite your kids to pull up the whole plant—they’ll find peanuts dangling from the ends of the pegs. Dry the nuts, roast them, and have a peanut party with your kids.
Chocolate Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)—Mint plants are fun and easy to grow in the garden. They come in a range of flavors, including ginger, lemon, orange, and apple. However, my favorite mint for kids is chocolate peppermint. The leaves are tinged with dark coloring and if you close your eyes, you can almost taste the chocolate flavor. It’s like eating a peppermint patty! It grows best in USDA zones 4 to 9, in part sun on well-drained soil. Be careful: this low-growing plant can spread up to 3 feet and become invasive. It’s best to grow all members of the mint family in containers or in an area where you don’t mind it spreading.