How to - Gardening with Kids

Kids and palm trees

Don't let winter stop you and your kids from gardening indoors!

Jack Frost is painting windows and Frosty the Snowman is popping up on neighborhood lawns, but your kids can still garden indoors. One great growing project is to sow palm seeds that sprout into kid-friendly, low-maintenance houseplants. You can purchase commercial seeds, but it's cheapest and most fun to eat some dates, then plant the pits.

Most palms are trees that grow straight and tall, but the trunk of the rattan palm, which grows in Southeast Asia, is a vine that trails along the jungle floor or climbs trees. Many palms have a single trunk or stem; others have clustered trunks that grow from the same root base. Some palm fruits are as tiny as peas, but the largest--produced by the double coconut palm can be 60 centimetres in diameter. Coconuts, sago (starch), raffia, rattan and canauba wax are all palm products.

Soak palm seeds in water overnight, then sow in a deep flowerpot filled with light, well-drained soil. Regular houseplant soil is ideal. Cover the seeds with two to three times their thickness of soil, and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. At 22 to 29'C, palm seeds generally germinate in two to 12 weeks. A palm seedling looks like a blade of grass. The second leaf is slightly larger than the first. Eventually a trunk will form. Depending on the variety of palm, it may take two or three years for fronds (leaves with divisions) to appear.

Palms prefer warm temperatures: 22 to 24'C during the daytime and 18 to 22'C at night. Some palms like full sun, others shade. Read the instructions below for the specific palm you wish to grow to determine what kind of light you should give it.

Before watering, allow half the depth of the soil to dry, but never let the palm's roots dry out completely. Water thoroughly, then discard the drainage so the roots don't sit in water. Leaf tips on over-watered plants turn pale yellow and the leaves may drop. On under-watered plants, tips turn brown, older fronds yellow, and new growth is pale.

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