Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life

A Growing Interest
Fun plant projects for kids

December 2003 Issue

Bringing Up Baby
Little tips that
may help

Winter Crafts
for Kids

A Growing Interest
Fun plant projects
for kids

All-Inclusive
Vacations

A primer

Nighty Night
Sleep and children

Did You Know

Mail Bag

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The winter months are a perfect time to challenge young minds with new concepts. One of the more interesting experiments that can be easily performed at home is rooting plants from cuttings or seeds. Watching over time as a houseplant cutting develops a root system in water is a great way to teach children how plants grow and gather nourishment. Fun projects to try include growing an avocado plant from a pit and a sweet potato plant from an actual sweet potato. Using a clear plastic glass enables children to easily see the root system of the plants as they begin to develop.

avacadoThe Amazing Avocado Pit
An avocado plant grows quite well as a houseplant and can be pinched back to limit size as needed. Using an avocado pit, place three toothpicks (at even intervals) into the large end of the pit approximately one-third of the way up from the bottom of the pit. The toothpicks will help support the pit when placed in a glass of water. The base of the pit should be covered by about one-half inch of water. Maintain the level of the water by adding additional water as needed (do not change the water). As long as the water remains clear, the pit is not rotting. If the pit rots, discard it and start another pit. Small roots will initially start on the bottom side. The pit will eventually crack and the developing stem will be visible. When the stem reaches six inches, cut it back to three inches to promote growth of a bushy, leafy plant. At this point, remove the toothpicks and the rooted pit can be planted in a large clay pot using a light sandy soil mixture. The plant will grow well with plenty of indirect light (avoid too much direct sunlight).

Surprising Sweet Potato
Much like an avocado pit, a sweet potato tuber will root when suspended in water using toothpicks. Stick toothpicks around the center of a sweet potato. Place the sweet potato in a glass of water (preferably clear so your children can see the root development) so half of the sweet potato is submerged in water. Place the sweet potato and glass in a sunny location. Roots will begin to develop from the base of the sweet potato. When stems sprout from the top of the potato, the plant can be given a home in a pot with a good potting soil. Sweet potato vines are an attractive ornamental plant. In addition, if the pot is large enough, the plant will eventually develop tubers on its root system—making it a perfect tool for teaching how plants grow and multiply.

Other common houseplants with soft stems typically root very well in a glass of water in a sunny location. Pinch a length of stem from a plant and remove any leaves that would be under water (to keep them from rotting). The pinched end will be the rooting end. Keep the cutting covered with water and, over time, roots will begin to develop—usually where leaves were present. After roots grow to two or three inches, the new plant can be placed in a pot ready for a new start.

Before long your children will develop a green thumb and have a newfound appreciation for the living world below the ground!

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