Family gardening can be rewarding for everyone — kids, parents and retailers alike. For the children, gardening spurs curiosity, sparks questions and stimulates young minds while exercising the body. Parents gardening with their children find that it provides quality time outdoors away from technology and offers one-on-one teachable moments rooted in a respect for nature.

Best of all, what’s good for gardeners and their kids can be good for retail nursery sales. By including kid-friendly gardening projects, plants and products in your marketing plans and displays, you’ll bring the whole family into your store and foster a new generation of customers.

Here are some ideas to help attract families to your nursery and encourage them to garden.

Promoting the right plants can create an atmosphere at your store where child gardeners can thrive.

Kid-friendly plants

Kid-friendly plants should be easy to grow and appealing to the senses. Try to select plants that tell a story or provide a lesson. And of course, kid-friendly plants should be safe for children to be around (no thorns, poisons or allergens). Here are some examples of plants that appeal to children, which also make perfect choices for a plant-of-the-week promotion.

Containers are great options for people without large gardens.

For youngsters, the vegetable garden is one of the best places to start the gardening experience. The vegetable garden is full of lessons about where food comes from, and the great flavors of fresh produce can foster a lifetime of healthy eating.

Crops like Little Finger and Short ‘n Sweet carrots, bright colored or frilly lettuces, super sweet tomatoes like Sweet Million and all types of pumpkins and squash are easy to grow and/or quickly mature.

Colorful surprises will be appreciated, too. Highlight purple potatoes, rainbow carrots, Bright Lights chard and Easter Egg radishes.

Theme gardens are also a fantastic way to get kids into vegetable gardening. Build a pizza garden display that features basil, thyme, oregano and paste tomatoes. Feature ingredients for salsa with mild peppers, tomatoes, Mexican oregano and cilantro.

Easy flowers

Fast germinating, generous and colorful bloomers like sweet alyssum, cosmos, marigolds, morning glories, zinnias and wildflower mixes are ideal for kids. Bulbs like hyacinth, daffodils and tulips are another excellent choice.

Plants with great textures

The velvety leaves of lamb’s ears, Artemisia, mullein, peppermint-scented geranium and dusty Miller will inspire young gardeners to reach out and touch plants. There are also tickly-foliaged plants like blue fescue, sea pinks and Mexican feather grass.

Encourage kids to enjoy the fragrance of plants with clever signage.
Plants with fragrance

The fragrant flowers experienced when you are young often stay in your memories for a lifetime. Lilacs, jasmine, sweet orange, roses and so many more will sell themselves if you just encourage the nose. When they are at their peak, create displays of fragrant flowers. Or, just add a sign in the pots that says, “Smell me.”

Promote plants that attract pollinators and other wildlife.
Plants that attract wildlife

Butterflies, birds, beneficial insects, bees and other pollinators are all important parts of the integrated yard and garden. Help teach nature lessons as well as gardening by offering wildlife-friendly plants and accessories.


Big, bold, edible and easy to grow — these are just some of the attributes that make sunflowers one of the best plants for children’s gardening. Also, they are available in many colors and forms, and birds love them. If you want to get youngsters involved in gardening, seed racks will not do justice to sunflowers. Bring them front and center, have photo contests and planting demonstrations. Growing sunflowers is fun — take advantage.

Kid-friendly projects

There are many simple projects you can promote or demonstrate to entice kids into gardening and, simultaneously, sell a variety of products. Try one of these kid-friendly projects:

Bean teepee

A simple fort made of bamboo or other lightweight stakes arranged into a teepee and tied at the top. Plant scarlet runner beans or other annual climbers around the base. Tying the string horizontally around the teepee from bottom to top will provide additional support for the beans.

Sunflower house

This is another simple kid-getaway. Plant tall varieties of sunflowers in a three-row circle, leaving a little room for an entryway. It’s going to be a popular place, so make sure that the circle is big enough to handle several kids — at least 6 to 8 feet wide.

Fairy garden supplies are popular with children.

An indoor garden might be the ideal solution for those without outdoor space. Besides houseplants, sell miniatures like tiny houses, animals or cars to help the kids create their own fairy garden.

Container gardens

Another option for children with limited outdoor space, and almost any of the plants listed previously can be grown in pots. Offer many possibilities and let the kids be creative with the plant combinations.

Van Wilgen’s Garden Center gives kids many opportunities to be creative and hands-on.
Support school gardening projects

More and more schools are creating gardens as learning tools. You’re the expert; get involved on a local level and support school gardening projects. Besides goodwill, you’ll get new customers.

Strawberry pots

Use ever-bearing varieties to keep the fruit coming all summer long. These are easy to demonstrate and fun to grow.

Kids’ gardening products

There are many lines of childrens’ gardening tools, gloves and accessories — even basic kids’ “gardening kits.” But think beyond those and create a “kids’ corner” that includes a variety of plants, seeds, products and childrens’ gardening books to help families garden together.

Consider stocking bird house kits for fun, kid-friendly projects.

Products to consider include seed starting kits, bee houses, lady beetles, potting supplies, pressed flower kits, root view boxes, birdseed and bird houses. The possibilities are endless!

You’ll also want to consider the right products to treat the plants to help keep pests at bay. Think about merchandising pest, weed and disease control products that are made from naturally-derived ingredients.

Lance Walheim is the Bayer Advanced lawn & garden expert and author of Landscaping for Dummies.