A young person's introduction to indoor gardening is often based on interest kindled by family members who already have plants as a hobby. A child's choice made from plants already growing in the home is a starting point.
Parents may want to make a special initial effort to direct the child. Begin by calling attention to plants in storybooks, discussing plants pictured in gardening magazines and books and relating these to plants already in the home.
Family visits to nurseries or plant stores can spur a child's desire to own a plant. The gift of a small potted plant, a bulb or a packet of seed may be the park that ignites a life-long interest or leads to a career in plant-related professions.
Plants that adapt readily to available light, heat and moisture are the best choices for the beginning gardener. Foliage plants, grown for their beautiful leaves, generally meet this requirement. Little known plants are not necessarily more difficult to grow than common-place ones. The new gardener brings fresh interest and no preconceived notions of difficulty. To him, learning the rules for difficult plants is no more trouble than for common-place ones.
Plants that are quick-growing and have unusual flowers or a strange means of multiplying excite the imagination, arouse curiosity or have a "show and tell" potential.
Encourage a child to select only the number of plants that can be conveniently accommodated in the space assigned for the young person's garden. Keep in mind the amount of time the novice can give and the youngster's staying power.
Help the young gardener to see how his or her own needs are the like needs of the plants. To stay healthy, we must have fresh, clean air, sunshine, a balanced diet, water and proper rest. Factors that influence or control plant growth, expressed in simple terms, are:
Food: addition of fertilizer to soil.
Air: plants use oxygen from air and soil.
Water: plants drink their food from the soil.
Warmth and light: sunlight is life to plants; without it, plants cannot carry on growth processes. The substitute for sunlight is artifical light.
Rest: plants grow in the dark.
These needs are basic. How much of each is needed depends on the plants being grown. Like people, plants are individuals. Learning their differences is one of the things that makes gardening an interesting hobby.
Written instructions for individual plants reinforce oral instruction. Encourage the young gardener to make notes and record the culture and development of his plants.
In this list of plants, each has been chosen for special appeal. The letters AL indicate a palnt that does well in artificial light.
Scindapsus (pothos) Devil's ivy-bright, variegated foliage; simple cultural needs; a quick-growing, vigorous vine; can be grown on a moss totem pole. AL
Ceropegia woodii Rosary vine-delicate vine, small heart-shaped, mottled leaves; small tubers grow on the wiry stems; a good plant in a small pot.
Oxalis regnelli shamrock-parasol leaves fold at night; many white flowers; sunloving. AL.
Mimosa pudica sensitive plant- leaves fold up temporarily in response to touch. AL.
Sedum morganianum burro tail- new plant can be started with each leaflet; dry site suitable; low, spreading growth; good hanging plant. AL
Bryophyllum air plant-plantlets develop around leaf margins.
Cactus Old Man or others-small types, slow growing.
Cyperus alternifolius umbrella plant-foliage like ribs of an umbrella; grows in water; flower heads inverted in shallow dish of water will produce small plants.
Tolmeia piggback plant-young plants, or hitchhikers, develop on mature leaves. AL
Narcissus paper whites-for winter flowers in a bowl of pebbles and water; minimum care once bulbs have begun growth.
Dionaea Venus flytrap-always popular with youngsters; insect-eating; when an insect alights on a leaf, curved bristles clamp down on it and it is absorbed as food for the plant; can be grown in shallow bowl of sand and leaf mold.
In answer to inquiries, some sources of Wonderlite are: Public Service Lamp Corp., 410 W. 16th St., New York, N.Y. 10011 (by mail order); Greensleeves Plant Store, Vienna, Va.; Bittersweet Hill Nursery, Rte. 424, Davidsonville, Md.; Tropica Stores in Bethesda, Landover and Arlington. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Ronalie Peterson - The Washington Post