Plant a Birthday Garden

Planting a colorful garden on someone’s birthday is a great way to celebrate another year of life.

What You Need

  • Flowers – see step 2 for tips – at least one plant per participant
  • Hammer (optional, if putting up birthday signs)
  • Heavy duty tape, such as duct tape
  • Mulch (optional, if you want to help keep the water in the soil after planting)
  • Other birthday decorations, such as streamers or any other nature-themed items
  • Popsicle sticks, one per plant
  • Potting soil (optional, if you need to add to your planting area before the event)
  • Spades, perhaps one for every two children so they can work as partners
  • Watering can
  • Waterproof markers
  • Wood (small pieces of scrap for a birthday sign – optional)

What You Do

  1. Before the planting event, prepare the planting area
    If working with children especially, you will first want to loosen the soil in the planting area and perhaps add additional planting soil. It’s important to make the soil loose for small hands to dig, and double check that you don’t have a layer of hard clay below a thin layer of topsoil.
    It’s possible that you can do this activity in container gardens on an apartment balcony if you don’t have access to a yard. To do that, you’ll need to purchase some large containers and research best practices of container gardening. If you don’t have a yard, you could also ask your local nature center or park if you could plant in a small bed there.
    This is a great activity for a birthday party or as a family event. You can encourage each guest to bring a plant as their gift to the birthday person.
    Also, if you are looking for inspiration, here are 16 tips for gardening with kids. (right link?)
  2. Choose season-appropriate plants
    For spring birthdays, you can plant almost any kind of plant because the growing season is just starting.
    For summer birthdays, choose plants that will keep their petals in the heat.
    For fall birthdays, choose something like chrysanthemums that are hardy as the temperatures cool.
    If planting with children, kid-friendly plants tend to be marigolds or zinnias for full sun, or impatiens for partial shade. These plants can stand up to some handling and have big blossoms.
    Learn about native plants for your region. (broken link)
  3. Make “Happy Birthday” signs for the garden
    If you’d like, you can make wooden signs from scrap wood and paint sticks. The guests can decorate these signs with birthday messages.
    To make the sign, find a small piece of scrap wood. We used the bottom from an old clementine box. We taped on paint sticks with duct tape to make the signs stand up.
  4. Before the guests arrive, lay out your materials
    Fill your watering can(s) with water. Have a table where the guests can decorate their signs and name sticks. Have a staging area for the plants so little ones don’t step on plants by mistake. Have any additional decorations handy, including a way to hang up those decorations (such as tape or small nails).
  5. Decorate the popsicle sticks and signs
    When the guests arrive, have them decorate their sticks with their names on one side, and the name of their plant on the other side. Use waterproof markers so the names stay after you water the plants. If working with small children, put a protective smock on their clothing to protect from the permanent markers.
    If working with small children, you might write “Happy Birthday” on the sign and have them color it in, or ask an older child to take charge of this task.

  6. Have each person pick a spot for their plant
    They might put their name stick in place to “claim” their spot.
    Then hand out the spades and have kids dig a hole as big as the plant’s root ball. If they can sit the pot in the hole, it’s big enough.
    Encourage safety by reminding kids to pile their dirt near their hole, not flinging it across the area.
  7. While some people plant, others might hang decorations
    Streamers or ornaments liven up the area.
    You can also hang yarn nearby and have each person write a special birthday note to the birthday person.

  8. Help smaller children pull the plants from their plastic pots
    Show them how you lay the plant on its side and gently wiggle it from the pot.

  9. Once the plant is in its hole, fill in the gaps with the dirt you dug up
    You could also encourage the kids to sprinkle mulch around the flowers to help the soil retain water longer.

  10. Hammer the signs into the area
    Make sure other children are cleared out of the way when hammering.

  11. Make sure everyone puts their name sticks by their plant
    It reminds the birthday person about all the people who love them!

  12. Have each child water their plant with the watering can
    This brings the roots in contact with the soil and gives the plant a better chance of thriving in its new home.

  13. At the end, take photos of all your gardeners with their garden
    What a colorful birthday!
    You can also start a tradition of measuring everyone’s height on the fence near the garden. Next year when you plant again, you can measure how everyone has grown!