Child Friendly Plants for Pots, Urns, and Planters

Published: November 15, 2020

Having pots in your garden brings variety, height, and an extra level of interest all year round. This is the easiest way to experiment and move plants around the backyard or patio until you find a perfect spot for it.

Besides the visual and ecological aspects of the garden, we also want to make sure that it is safe for its users. Children should spend more time playing outside in the natural environment and it is important to educate them on how to behave around the plants and to not consume any parts of the plant. Always choose the plants that are non-toxic, without thorns or any poisonous parts, without any pests or diseases.

Supervising children is the best option but if you are not available to be with them all the time make sure that part of the garden that is not suitable for the children is fenced. Create a special and safe part in the backyard for your children to play and enjoy their outdoor time.

If your child has been exposed to poisonous plants assess the situation and call the poison information center, ambulance, or your family doctor. Do not use any part of the plant as food, tea, herb, or medicine.

The following list of the plants was researched by Illinois Poison Center (IPC) and marked as non-toxic. Keep in mind that non-toxic leaves and berries can be choking hazards for small children.

Depending on your climate you can move these plants indoors during the cold months if they are not doing well in the low temperatures.

TIP: Always choose a pot that is big enough to sustain plant roots, heavy enough to keep it in place, and well-drained

Areca palm - Dypsis lutescens

If you want to bring a tropical feeling with bright green leaves into your garden design this is the perfect option. Areca palm is an evergreen multiple stem palm that can grow up to 8 meters and spread up to 4 meters. Areca palms are hardy in USDA hardiness zone 10 and 11 but some nurseries recommend that plant also for USDA hardiness zone 9. It requires bright and indirect light since the direct sunlight may burn the leaves. Plant in the well-drained soil and let the top of the soil to dry between watering. Water less often during the winter months. As a slow-growing plant, it will need reporting every two to three years. It is well known as an air-purifying plant.

Baby’s tears - Soleirolia soleirolii

Beautiful fast-growing and creeping perennial with lush green, tiny leaves, and pinkish flowers. Even though it may look delicate it is very easy to grow and maintain. Well-draining soil, a moderate amount of daily sunlight, and regular watering with occasional pruning are all that it needs to look its best. It is a very low growing plant and can grow up to 10cm but can spread easily up to 1 meter. Plant hardiness zone 9 through 11.

Bamboo - Phyllostachys sp.

Growing bamboo in a pot gives you the ability to maneuver it around the garden and also not to worry that it will invade the whole space as it might happen if it is planted without a root barrier in the soil. Because it can grow very tall in tight spaces it is recommended to use for balconies, side yards, and tight patios. You’ll need to re-pot it every 3-5 years to not get a root-bound or divide it and add new soil. Reporting can be done at any time of the year but dividing is best during the autumn or winter. Choose a bamboo that is hardy in your area, can grow in the amount of sunlight that it can get in your garden, and based on your preferences whether you want it to be used as a screen or focal point.

Bird’s nest fern - Asplenium nidus

Evergreen fern forming rosette of bright green leaves. Grow in moist but well-drained soil at the place with the filtered light. A slow-growing plant that can grow and spread up to 1 meter. Hardy to USDA hardiness zone 11 and 12. Nice specimen plant that can be very showy by itself or even combined with some flowering plants.

Blackberries - Rubus sp.

This is a perfect plant for those of you who are also interested to grow some fruits by yourself and provide nutritious snacks for your family. There are many different species of blackberries that you can plant in the pot, just search for the perfect one for your taste and environment. Also, make sure that you plant the cultivar without thorns and chose the right one for your hardiness zone.

Petunia - Petunia sp.

One of the most popular annuals because of the wide variety of flower colors and sizes. Showy flowers are vibrant and eye-catching so it will bring an instant interest to your garden. A long period of flowering and abundance of flowers will occur at a sunny location and optimal watering.

Echeveria - Echeveria sp.

As a succulent plant, echeveria is very low maintenance and suitable for those of you who have a very busy lifestyle. Because of the many different colors and shapes, I am sure that everyone can find a perfect one for themselves. Size and spread don't usually go over 30 cm so it will be a perfect option for smaller spaces and planters. Let the soil dry between irrigation and make sure to place it at a sunny location. It will spread easily and provide a nice texture to your pot.

Lavender - Lavandula sp.

A staple plant for any garden because of the visual appearance, scent, and easy maintenance. Equip your planter with a nice drainage system and place it on a sunny spot so your lavender can achieve full potential. Grows in the hardiness zones from 5 through 9 and it is especially useful to plant lavender in pots in the cooler climates since you can bring them indoors during cold months and place them on a sunny window. Because it is a natural pest repellent it is nice to place the pots with lavender near the sitting area or any part of the garden that you like to use the most. Pruning is essential, in cooler climates it can be done in spring and in the warmer during autumn.

Hosta - Hosta sp.

Hosta leaves come in a variety of colors, sizes, textures, and heights so it can fit any kind of garden, and it is considered to be a perfect plant for shade. Easy to grow in hardiness zone 3 through 9 but always keep the soil moist and well-drained.

Magnolia - Magnolia sp.

Magnolias come in a wide array of sizes and can fit any size of the garden. Plant them in rich, well-drained soil and leave enough space around it so it can develop the branches and form a nice habitus at a full sun or partial shade. Chose a right pot that is several times larger than a tree root ball but still manageable if you want to move the plant often. Consider buying a compact and small cultivar if you want to plant it in a pot. Evergreen options are Magnolia grandiflora ‘Teddy Bear’ and Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’. Some of the beautiful and small deciduous are Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Black Tulip’, Magnolia ‘Ann’, Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’.

Create a happy and healthy environment for your children and get them involved in the planting and maintenance process. This experience will help them develop different skills and learn new things while playing outdoors.