The Q&A Archives: Foolproof Gardening for Children

Question: I am a special needs teacher for learning disabled teenagers. I would like to garden with them this spring. Can you suggest names of flowers that will grow nicely with little care in NE? Should I start from seed or young plants? The children leave this residential school in June but it is staffed by camp personnel who will take care of watering, etc. Also, I thought sunflowers would be fun to grow. The children arrive back at school in mid Sept. Will the sunflowers still stand tall?

Answer: Many of the old fashioned annuals grow well long into fall and can be started from seed (or occasionally from transplants). For a sunny spot you might try sweet scented flowering tobacco, the tall and exuberant tithonia, incredibly monstrous castor beans (note these are poisonous), salvia "Victoria" for a lovely blue, sweet alyssum, tall and feathery cosmos, big and little marigolds, bright zinnias, morning glories, the exotic moonflower vine, and gloriosa daisies. Traditional sunflowers generally take about 80 days to bloom, so you might be able to time that right; some of the newer branching types for cutting will bloom for a longer time so might consider them, too. Dahlias and cannas would be something to consider, especially if you could lift and store the them the following winter to replant again. For a shady spot you might try impatiens, hippoestes(polka dot plant), coleus, fibrous begonias -- all as plants, caladium and taro as bulbs. Good luck with your project!

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