Plant Starts for Gifts

Plant Start for Gifts

In the spring when it is time to start plants indoors to be transplanted outdoors after the danger of frost has passed is an ideal time to introduce younger students to seeds and plant growth. Students can make and decorate starting pots from toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls that have been cut in thirds. These can be easily decorated using makers or paints, water proof if possible. The plants will need to be started four to six weeks before they are ready to go home.

Subject Area

Science, Art
Appropriate Grade Level
2nd – 4th

Ideal season for lesson


Time needed to facilitate lesson

Two hours or less, plus growing time

Suggested materials

  • Toilet paper roll tubes or paper towel roll tubes
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
  • Pencils
  • Tape
  • Markers or paint to decorate the pots
  • Seeds, marigolds, zinnias or sunflowers will work well for this.
  • Potting soil
  • Plastic bags or plastic wrap
  • Tray or pan
  • Grow lights if available

Goal and Outcomes

  • Science C2.2: The student demonstrates an understanding of the structure, function, behavior, development, life cycles, and diversity of living organisms by describing the basic characteristics and requirements of living things
  • Art CREATE (CR): A student should be able to imagine and develop artistic ideas and work.

Step by Step guide to teaching the lesson

Make the pots:

1. Have the students measure ¾’ from the bottom of the toilet paper tube and draw a line.

2. They will need to cut from the bottom to the line in 5-6 places fairly evenly spaced around the tube.

3. Fold the flaps they have created in toward the center.

4. Apply two or three strips of tape.

5. Decorate the tubes. Remember that the tubes will be getting wet and the paint or markers may bleed.

At this point the lesson can be continued or left for the next day.

Plant the seeds:

  1. Fill the tubes with potting soil
  2. Plant 2 to 3 seeds in each pot. They will be thinning the seedlings later leaving the healthiest looking seedlings
  3. Place on the tray or in the pan
  4. Water
  5. Cover with a plastic bag or plastic wrap
  6. Place in a sunny window or under grow lights.

Grow the plants:

  1. Check plants daily, as long as there is condensation on the plastic they do not need to be watered
  2. Add water to the tray or pan rather than watering from the top
  3. When the seedlings touch the bag or plastic wrap remove it
  4. Water as needed, the soil should be damp about ¼ inch down, never sopping wet
  5. When seedlings have their first true leaves thin to the best plant or two

The plants can be planted while still in the pots by removing the tape from the bottom and opening the flaps. I have not tried this, but I have used newspaper pots to start plants and they get soggy, but hold together if handled gently.


  Mike Lieberman; Urban Organic Gardner; How To Make Seed Starter Pots Using Toilet Paper Rolls

Bubel, Nancy; The New Seed Starting Guide; Rodale Books; 3rd Print edition (1988)

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