Gardening with children can be a wonderful teaching opportunity. Growing flowers with children requires letting go of any preconceived ideas of what a "groomed" flower bed should look like and letting the children explore their natural environment. Adult guidance can help a child or classroom develop a garden that produces flowers for many months. By using a variety of methods of propagating plants, children can learn the different ways plants germinate and grow. Children can watch plants develop roots by "forcing" a bulb, experience the wonder of a bulb that's been planted in the fall as it shows new growth early in the spring and can get their hands down into the earth by planting transplant seedlings and poking flower seeds into the earth. Select a variety of plants for your child's flower garden, ranging from scented to edible flowers, early blooming to late blooming, and tall to petite. Always choose nontoxic plants and supervise children.
Sunflowers are a good choice. Children are in awe over the sheer height and magnitude of these flowers. The fact that sunflowers turn their heads, following the sun, gives the children an understanding of plants as a living entity. Plant toward the back of the garden area, as the sheer size can overwhelm smaller flowers.
Nasturtiums are great plants to grow from seed, as the seeds are large enough for children to manipulate and can be planted directly in the garden bed. Children get a kick out of being able to eat these brightly colored flowers in salads.
Marigolds are a children's garden standard. Children love deadheading the marigolds and collecting the seeds after the flowers dry. Sow in the spring through summer. The petals, when fresh, can be eaten in salads.
Crocus make for excellent season indicators, depending on your location. When planted in the fall in colder climates, they signal the beginning of spring by poking their heads out of the snow. The sight of a purple or yellow flower, bright against the white of the snow, never ceases to amaze children. These bulbs grow close to the ground, early in the season, allowing them to be spread out over the gardening area, even in the lawn.
Gladioli bulbs can be planted all summer long for continual flower production. Children adore these tall and stately multiflowered stems, and will have fun using the flowers for decoration.
Amaryllis are easy bloomers, and can be forced indoors during the winter, allowing children to watch the growth cycle of the bulb.
Lavender can be transplanted from 4-inch containers, and will produce lovely scented flowers all summer long. It can be harvested while still in bloom, dried, then used to make potpourri or sachets. The buds can also be candied or sugared and used in baking. Lavender grow to a midsize height but get bushy, so have children give lavender plenty of space to grow.
Snapdragons not only produce delightful blooms, but younger children are drawn to the unique name. If planting with a younger group, be prepared for an argument over who gets to plant the "snapping dragons"!
Violets can be transplanted from containers. Violets produce purplish-blue, sweetly scented flowers that can be candied and eaten.