Tropical plants that need warm growing conditions are not just for adults. Some of the most fascinating plants for our youngest gardeners are easy-to-grow and entertaining to watch.
One of the most popular plants earned its fame from the movie “Little Shop of Horrors.” The “Venus Fly Trap,” although not as large and active as the movie screen version, it performs remarkably well for curious onlookers. Its open-mouth structure with hair-like teeth shut tightly when a fly enters its pod. For the impatient viewer, simply place a bowl of ripe bananas next to the “Venus Fly Trap” and watch the little fruit flies get swallowed up. My son, a crusader to save the underdog, spends hours intervening. He takes a toothpick, gently jabs the inside of the pod and watches as the pod closes on nothing. Then he hides the fruit bowl. After several minutes, however, the hungry plant opens its mouth, seeking nourishment.
For the “sensitive” child, try growing “The Sensitive Plant.” Botanically known as a Mimosa Pudica, its fine lacey leaflets retreat and collapse downward when the vibration of touch or air shakes the leaves. Don Taylor, a father of two and artist says, “When my children awake, it’s a race downstairs to see who can touch the leaves first.” But don’t be fooled, once his children are on the school bus, the first thing Don does is check on his “Sensitive Plant,” and watch how the leaves magically respond to his touch.
Another intriguing plant is the “Living Stone,” also known as Lithops. These South African succulents look like multi-colored pebbles and are usually grown clustered in a small pot. They are perfect for a crowded windowsill and even the smallest child can handle its cultural requirements of watering once or twice a month. Watch for the bright yellow bloom that pokes out of the center of the stone, then bring it to “show and tell.”
Hot Plants are fun to grow, fascinating to watch and interactive without any electronic hook-ups. To find out more about Hot Plants for Cool Kids go to www.logees.com. Or call toll free 1-888-330-8038 and ask for the holiday catalogue.
Laurelynn G. Martin is co-author of Logee’s Spectacular Container Plants, Independent Publisher Book Award Winner, 2002 Home & Garden (Willow Creek Press, 2001), Featured on HGTV-Martha Stewart Show, Dec. 2002. She is the education specialist at Logee’s Greenhouses, a 112 year-old horticultural establishment.