Sensory Garden Plants

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A stimulating sensory garden is undoubtedly an excellent way to teach children about plants. It can also be seen as an ingenious method of getting them interested in gardening as a whole. There are many types of sensory gardens, and a myriad of different ways of creating them, but overall, the more plants you use, the better. It is possible to create something which stimulates all five senses to maximum effect, the perfect sensory garden.

The idea behind a sensory garden is to create an exciting area, where there are not only visual, but textural plants and these can include sounds, tastes and fragrances.

A Child's Sensory Garden

A houseplant or two is an excellent addition to a child’s bedroom, but why not take it a step further and create a miniature garden? It’s an ideal project to do together, and giving a child (of almost any age) some autonomy over plant choice and decorations means that they will engage with it that much more.

The child’s age will, to some extent, influence the type of garden that is best to create; for example, a display full of prickly cacti is probably not the best choice for toddlers. Encourage children to look at the colours and feel the different shapes and textures of plants, and to take some responsibility for looking after them.

A Child's Sensory Garden

The following suggestions include some ideas for plant displays that will work well together and have mainly sensory properties. As long as the plants all have similar light, heat and watering requirements, it’s possible to let their creativity run riot.

Visual Appeal

Excitement and interest can be added to the sensory garden with the use of bright, fun colours, mainly red and yellow. These plants will stimulate the eyes, and foliage will also serve the same purpose, with interesting patterns and shapes. It is surprising as to actually how many shades of green can be found, along with more unusual colours such as silver, purple and gold. Green is also relaxing.

A Child's Sensory Garden

Visually appealing plants can also help with teaching children about colours and can be grouped together with labels for easy identification. Colourful accessories can be added to any display, such as little walls, hand-painted stones and steps, creating interest all year round.

Textural Appeal

Being able to touch the plants and explore their different textures will add a whole new dimension to the gardening experience. Try to aim for a mix of soft and spiky, and take the opportunity to explain about which plants should be avoided. Think about the thorny stems of roses or the stinging nettle leaves.

There are many sensory plants which have textures that are either feathery, soft or succulent, and children will enjoy comparing the different feel to each of them.

A Child's Sensory Garden

Carnivorous plants appeal to the vivid imaginations of children, and they will be fascinated by the likes of the African sundew, and its sticky leaves, designed to trap insects. Other textures to add, include little walkways made of bark or pebbles, or maybe a water feature. A simple dish of water among the plants simulates the addition of a pond, and even if it develops slimy algae, it is something new to discover.

Fragrance, Sound and Taste

Fragrant plants add a new dimension to a sensory garden, and using herbs for this purpose is simple, and they are easy to maintain. Popular choices which can be grown all year round include lemon balm, mint and rosemary. Plus, you have the bonus of using them for culinary creations.

Splashing water over the plants is a fun activity and good for them too, or just merely trickling the water over the soil, between the fingers is a sensory experience. Think about including plants whose leaves can be rustled or adding those that have seed pods which can be snapped open or shaken.

A Child's Sensory Garden

Edible plants, fruit and vegetables can quickly be grown indoors and can lead to a useful discussion as to what is safe to eat. Children will be astonished that you can actually eat nasturtium flowers, although they may not enjoy the slightly bitter taste. Salad vegetables are favourite and grow quickly enough to keep children interested and not get bored waiting for them to be ready to eat. Cucumbers, strawberries and tomatoes are easy to grow, and for the more adventurous, hot chillies are a great option and a definite conversation starter.

A Hot, Sandy Desert

The varied forms and low-maintenance nature of succulents make them ideal starter plants for children.

For the cowboy fans in your life, create a little desert landscape in a full, shallow container.

Plant miniature succulents, such as money tree (Crassula ovata), aloes (Aloe vera and other species) and living stones (Lithops). For older children, perhaps add some differently shaped cacti.

A Child's Sensory Garden

Leave some space between the plants or around the edge, and cover the compost surface with a layer of sand and /or glass pebbles or gravel, which will introduce different textures.

This display could be the basis for some imaginative playtime activity with desert animals, or for acting out a Hollywood western.

A Jungle of Textures

A broad, deep and stable pot housing some plants of different heights and textures can bring a jungle feel to the corner of a room.

Planting everything in one large pot, rather than having a collection of smaller ones, means it is less likely the container will get knocked over (intrepid explorers may want to hide in this new “jungle”).

The tree-like ornamental fig (Ficus) can look effective in a jungle display and will leave enough root space for other plants to grow. Ctenanthe work well with other leafy plants, such as the colourful croton (Codiaeum) or banner plant (Anthurium), with its weird waxy flowers.

A Child's Sensory Garden

Underplanting Fittonia, which has brightly veined leaves, completes the jungle layers. Enlist little hands to help mist and clean the leaves regularly.

Jungle plants are ideal for budding naturalists and explorers.

Which plants would you recommend as an essential addition to a child’s sensory garden?

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18 thoughts on “Sensory Garden Plants”

  1. With the growth of the electronic world and the safety of children, in general, coming under constant scrutiny, it is my view that many of the basic sensory development skills are being lost. It is my view that parents need to invest effort back into reconnecting their children with nature. There is a no better way than building they type of garden or if space is an issue, pot plants that children can learn about nature. 

    I travel a lot for work and the desert succulent plants as you have mentioned are low maintenance but still connect children to nature. This is, in my opinion, the best place to start and branch out from there.


    • Hi Rich – thank you for your thoughtful comments. I quite agree, that children have lost touch with the great outdoors, and spend far too much time, glued to their game consoles All the best, Diane.  

  2. I have 4 children, all boys and 3 of them would rather be stuck indoors playing video games all day than be outside in the fresh air

    My second eldest son, however, loves the outdoors and learning about plants and wildlife so I have been looking around online to find ways to keep him from getting bored with our back garden

    I have a few plants and flowers that are dotted around the garden, I also have some vegetables growing so my son can look after them and to be fair he treats them like his babies, lol

    I really like the idea of a sensory garden though and I didn’t know they could be grown indoors but I’m not sure I would want to as my son would spend more time indoors than out which really defeats the object of growing plants etc

    Can these sensory gardens be grown on a bigger scale outside or would it be better that they were smaller to get a better effect?

    • Hi – I am glad you enjoyed this post and left comments. An outdoors sensory garden is a lovely idea, and the same principles can be applied as regards colour and texture. All the best, Diane.

  3. The evolving world is really limiting the rate at which the kids are getting involved with their sensory towards the garden. They all just want to be on their gadgets playing games or chatting. I’ve been trying to inculcate the act of gardening into my kid but he seems very repulsive towards it. Reading through this post, I got some really great ideas and will definitely give it a trial especially the fragrance and the smell. Thanks

    • Hi – thank you for taking the time to respond to my article. It’s such a shame that children no longer wish to be outdoors. I hope you succeed in teaching your child the fun that can be had with gardening! All the best, Diane.

  4. Hi,

    I’m a plant lover and I’ve recently grown a big love for orchids, I’m happy to share I have 4 Phal doing pretty good at home. I also have a good collection of succulents that are doing great.

    Every time I get the visit of young children, some of them are interested to touch the plants, sometimes they also have some questions about them. 

    I loved to read your article and as a grand-mom of two, one boy of 8 and a young girl of 1, who lives in a small apartment with no yard at all, your idea to get a couple of plants in their bedroom sounds great.

    I’ll forward your article to my daughter in law and to my son so they can read it too.

    You have a beautiful website, I’m happy I found it, I’m sure I’ll be back to read more!

    • Hi – thank you for reading my article, and leaving a comment. It would be lovely for your grandchildren to have some plants in their bedroom. I appreciate you forwarding on my post, and I hope you find more of interest to read. All the best, Diane

  5. When it comes to sensory development and improvement, nature is the best teacher and the experience can be felt better by surrounding yourself with nature more closely. Making a sensory garden will be a great idea and it’ll be of benefit to the child. Thanks for the tips, they will be of great help to parents who’d like to find ways around building their sensory gardens. By the look of things on our present society, nature is gradually loosing it’s worth, so in order not to leave all to technology and lost the root of life, we should try to instill in our kids the heart that loves nature and this starts by getting them familiar with things like flowers. Thanks for the information, really useful.

    • Hi – thank you for leaving these interesting comments after reading my article. I agree with what you say, its such a shame that the delights of nature have fallen by the wayside, as children prefer modern technology. All the best, Diane 

  6. I have to admit, I have not heard of sensory gardens before but what a great concept. I think this is wonderful and a great way for kids to not only experience everything involved in the garden but in some cases, get to eat the fruits of the labors. I think the biggest benefit though is quality time spent with your children.Thanks for sharing this information. I will be forwarding it on to my daughter who has two young children.

    • Hi – thank you for reading my article and leaving a nice comment. I am pleased you have learnt something new, and I hope your daughter enjoys it too. All the best, Diane

  7. This is really beautiful, right from my daughter’s birth, I’ve made sure her room is decorated with real flowers, not those synthetics we hang around, it’s really beneficial for human health to be surrounded by nature most especially flowers and tree, some plants purifies the air, this will be good for indoor use. Thanks for sharing this article about child’s sensory garden, it’s a great idea every parent should use. Getting this kids to love nature is really good, the only real hope our health have is in the hands of nature so it should be preserved, thanks.

    • Hi – thank you for visiting my website and reading my article. I agree with your comments, there is no substitute for nature. All the best, Diane

  8. I had never heard of a sensory garden before reading this article and it has inspired me to plan my own. Not only could it benefit kids, but the gardening could be a very therapeutic experience for everyone involved. I really like the idea of letting kids eat plants that you wouldn’t normally think are edible. I remember going hiking with my parents when we stopped at some plants that they said I could eat. It was great to be able to be able to interact with nature with a sense other than sight.

    • Hi – thank you for reading my article and leaving interesting comments. I am pleased you are thinking of planning a sensory garden. I am sure you will get much enjoyment from it. All the best, Diane

  9. This is a nice information to know. My 3 years old nephew seems to develop interest with plants and environmental knowledge. Building a sensory garden for him will be a fun experience for him. I’ll send your article to his parent. Fortunately, we leave in tropical country so there will a wide variety of plants available to be gardened 🙂

    • Hi – thank you for reading my article and leaving a comment. I am sure your nephew will enjoy getting involved in a sensory garden, and I appreciate you sharing this. All the best, Diane


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