Children and annuals make great garden pals. Maybe it’s because they’ve got so much in common: They’re colorful, bring fun to outdoor spaces and grow quickly right before our eyes. Kids are also fans of instant gratification, and if starter-plant annuals know anything, it’s how to bring immediate color and interest to a pile of dirt.

Preschooler planting

Planting a container with annuals is the simplest gardening concept that almost any child can do (with help and adult supervision, of course).

Photo Credit: Jenny Hooks

The great thing about annuals is they’re easy to plant and most are easy to care for, boosting growing confidence in little green thumbs and leaving them with a pretty garden and a proud sense of accomplishment. The bonus is that buying a few cell packs of annuals can cost less than a carry-out pizza – and you’ll enjoy them far longer than that thin crust with extra cheese.

The cool thing about annuals is there are so many different kinds for kids to choose. Some creep, some climb, some pour out of containers in a blooming craze. They can grow to “giant” proportions or be small enough for fairies to skip around. Kids are amazed by the massive heads and heights of sunflowers, enchanted by the papery balls of globe flowers and are drawn to the bright, pretty colors of the basic petunia. No matter which garden center you and your child walk into, there’s bound to be at least one (but prepare for more) neat-looking annual that speaks to your lil’ gardener.

And that’s what leads to the fun thing about annuals: You can simply enjoy growing them with your children. On top of the delight that comes from spending time together, gardening with kids is a wonderful teaching/learning opportunity: Showing children firsthand how gardens grow and what plants need to survive is an important lesson that will last a lifetime. You can play games around your plants, too, guessing which ones will flower first, grow taller or bloom the longest. Having fun in the garden is the first step toward encouraging future gardeners who care about the environment.

Where you help your children grow their annuals is up to you and your gardening space, be it in the ground or in a container. Planting annuals is a simple process in general – just be sure you’re putting the right plant in the right place, following all sun/shade requirements on the plant tag or seed packet. When it comes to growing with children, keep in mind what’s easiest for them as well. Fast- and easy-growing annuals will provide the quickest satisfaction and give kids the confidence they need to try growing more plants. If you’re planting seeds, select ones that are big for small fingers to pick up (like sunflowers).

Remember that the excitement doesn’t end once the plants are put in their final growing space. Help your young gardeners care for their plants (and help avoid annual decline) by showing them how to remove spent flowers and reminding them to continue watering well. (Leave the fertilizing all for you!) Encouraging your children to visit their annual garden every day will keep the colorful fun – and plants – growing!