An ongoing series of container recipes

Story and Photos by Barbara Wise

One mantra heard often in the horticulture world is “Get kids interested in gardening.” As I head into my years of grandparenting, I realize that learning is so much more appealing when it feels like playtime. So I started thinking about what I could do that would make planting up containers part of playtime with the grandkids. Toys! Make the planters a place to play with their toys! 

This isn’t rocket science, so I’m just going to share a few things that I found to helpful.

• Use lightweight resin planters that won’t break and can be easily moved to the child’s favorite play area. Also, the outside of a resin planter won’t heat up in the summer to burn a child’s skin like a glazed planter could. 

• Allow your child to be responsible for maintaining his planter playground. And because they will be responsible for the maintenance, use low-maintenance plants! 

• While the typical rules of container gardening still apply – ensuring good drainage, using a good quality soil container mix, making sure that you combine plants that like the same kind of environments for light and moisture – use play sand or sheet moss to cover the soil where the toys will be placed. This helps keep the toys a little cleaner and creates a designated play area. 

• Most importantly – don’t worry about a little dirt spilling when they want to bring the planter indoors. That’s what hand vacuums are for!

To make a play time planter for shade: 
  4-inch pot Bromeliad
  Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
  4 -inch pot variegated schefflera (S. arboricola ‘Variegata’) 
  2-inch pot Kalanchoe 
  4-inch pot variegated parsley aralia (Polyscias fruticosa ‘Snowflake’) 
  4-inch pot baby’s tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)
  Sheet moss

Any indoor plant requires little watering could be used. The baby’s tears is the indicator plant in this grouping. When it starts to look droopy, it’s time to water.

To make a play time planter for sun: 
  6-inch pot ‘Golden Mop’ falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’)
  Two 4-inch pots sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
  Two 4-inch pots ‘Redbor’ kale 
  Four 2-inch pots blue pansies (Viola x wittrockiana)
  Play sand

These plants all like the sun and prefer drier soil. I used about ½ inch of sand to cover the soil where the toys were placed and then pressed it in with my hand until the soil and sand were level. All that’s left now is to schedule a little bit of time to play.

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