For seniors living in nursing homes, the benefits of garden related activities are abounding. Here are some wonderful garden activities for the elderly.
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For seniors living in nursing homes, the benefits of garden related activities are abounding. Many nursing homes now provide specially designed ‘memory gardens’ and ‘wander gardens’ for residents living with dementia.

Recreation staff can provide outdoor or indoor garden activities in a supporting and caring atmosphere via an engaging Garden Club program.

Benefits of Gardening Activities in Nursing Homes

  • Positive social entertainment
  • Reminiscing opportunities
  • Enhanced well-being
  • Improved dexterity
  • Reduced symptoms of depression.
  • Educational opportunities
  • Relaxation and satisfaction

How to Start a Garden Club for Seniors:

You will need:

  • An outdoor area (cemented or tiled for easy cleaning), free of sound distractions such as noisy TV’s and people talking.
  • A couple of large tables covered with plastic or old newspapers.
  • Some tools, seedlings, plant cuttings, potting mixture, plastic pots, a bag of sand, and a water hose close by.
  • A group of enthusiastic residents.


  • Inform management of your intentions and ask for support; financial and otherwise.
  • Line up a volunteer or two to assist you.
  • Plan at least three sessions in advance. Be aware that your plan is dependent on the weather. Prepare to change activities if the session is to be conducted indoors.
  • Buy gardening tools suitable to your clients such as long handled hand-rakes, lightweight shovels, safety secateurs (pruners), garden gloves, and trowels.
  • Advise residents of your plans via the scheduled ‘Residents Meeting’ for expressions of interest. Recruit six to eight people to start with.
  • The group should meet once a month or once a fortnight.
  • Raised garden beds are highly recommended if possible.

Ideas for Garden Club Activities:

In the absence of a Horticultural Therapist, request advice from your local community garden club, they have the expertise and panache you need and in my experience they are always willing to help.

Good weather Garden Activities:

Use an outdoor area to enjoy fresh air and the sights and sounds of nature.

Outdoor activities to enjoy include:

I once sat a client, who could not communicate at all, in front of an old pot of fern with just a few green leaves in the middle, and a mass of dead leaves around it.

I asked her if she could tidy-up the plant for me and placed a pair of safety scissors within her reach. She looked at it for 15 minutes before she proceeded to pick up the scissors and slowly cut the dead leaves away one by one.

We were amazed at the transformation in her demeanor; from expressionless to alert in 25 minutes and smiles when we praised her. This is the sort of outcome that makes our jobs so worthwhile.

Bad weather Garden Activities:

If the weather turns cold or windy, conduct your meeting indoors.
Here are a few ideas:

  • Spanish moss bundles – It is hard to find Spanish Moss to buy, and when you do it can be rather expensive; try asking residents’ relatives to bring some from home. Each resident can make a small bundle for the outside wall of their bedrooms or hang on a tree or indoor plant.

  • Potpourri Sachets – Make sachets for wardrobes or drawers with natural fragrant plants, herbs and flowers.

  • Planting Indoors Bulbs – Spring bulbs are easy to grow and guarantee flowers every time. Plant beautiful hyacinth, narcissus and amaryllis bulbs and place on window sills or other sunny areas.

Tips & Instructions:

  1. If planting bulbs, purchase them from a reputable nursery.
    • You will need glass containers (any size) and small pebbles.
    • Place pebbles inside a container and arrange a few bulbs, (or just one bulb if the container is small) root side down, so that the pebbles cover half of the bulbs.
    • Finally, put a minimum amount of water in the container, just enough to touch the root of the bulbs.
    • Watch it grow!

  2. Geraniums, also known as Pelargoniums are almost fail-proof plants; fragrant and beautiful. Ask residents' relatives for cuttings and trim them for planting as follows:
    • Cut below growth nodule;
    • Take leaves and flower buds out leaving only the smallest leaves attached.
    • Dip ends in honey and place in potting mixture.
    • Water pots once a week.

  3. If making Spanish moss hangings, be careful when gathering the strands to tie them; if the strands are hung upside down, they won’t thrive.
    • Strands may be cut with scissors and then tied with a rubber band or kitchen string (do not use metal of any kind such as a florist wire or metal twist-tie).
    • Tie the little bundle (using string) to a stick or bamboo or recycled chopstick.
    • Before hanging it on a tree or wall, submerge the bundle in tap water or rain water and soak well.
    • In the hot summer months use a spray bottle to water once a week.

  4. If making Potpourri, buy the sachets ready-made or buy some satin fabric and ask someone to sew the sachets for you. Buy the dried herbs and flowers; then mix them up to your liking in a large container. Fill sachets and tie with pretty ribbons.

  5. Buy the best potting mixture you can afford, you will get you money back in yield.

  6. Ask relatives of residents to bring in cuttings of succulents for a gardening session. Mix potting mixture with sand or gravel for vigorous growth. Succulents are very versatile, you can make hanging pots, wreaths and feature pot plants. The variety is enormous and so are the colours; well worth your effort. Place them in partly shaded spots and water only when dried.

  7. People with poor dexterity can work in pairs; one holds the pot and another fills the pot with potting mixture; place potting mixture on a chair between them.

Good Luck!


What garden activities have you found to work well with seniors?


Marianne 26th Apr 2016
i emailed all our team members at The Heights, and asked for donations of workboots, kids rain boots, old running shoes etc. i got a GREAT variety...i drilled holes in the soles of the shoes/boots put a layer of rocks, filled with potting soil and then planted basket stuffers in them...(violas, alyssum, dianthus, marigolds, petunias etc. then put them out in the garden beds around the patio that presently is full of lush GREEN plants this really has given the residents something to admire daily, as well as look after, and talk about with friends, family or other team members that come to visit. The left over flowers we had have since been planted in our raised garden beds.
Solange 26th Apr 2016
Brilliant idea!!
karen 29th Oct 2014
I agree Tina, I have two Men residents, originally from Italy, who are passionate about growing their vegetable garden in pots. They now go out daily to water and check their plants. Their families are delighted to be involved too. It has been a worthwhile activity.
tina 25th Oct 2014
I also started a garden club in our high low dementia facility just over a year ago. You will be suprised at the wealth of knowledge that some of your residents have in gardening. Some of your residents bought their families up on the food they grew. The remenincsing output is exciting for all envolved.
The satisfaction that a non-ambulant resident with advanced dementia can get, just from sitting in a chair and watering the garden is phenominal. The sound of the hose, the sound as the water hits the leaves, the smell in the air if the water hits a warm path, the early morning sun and the clean sping air can bring a smile to that lovely old face and visually you can watch their bodies relax as a beautiful calm comes over them.
We have transformed a very ugly weedy garden into a colourful and fragrant garden. We have 2 waist high mobile gardens that are fantastic for the ellderly and are hoping to get more.The residents and their families love to sit out there just to look at the pretty flowers. We also have a large variety of herbs in pots which the residents really enjoy smelling.We grow some seasonal vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes,beans, strawberries and cucumbers. Gardening is a weekly activity with a couple of afternoon sessions thrown in throughout the week for our active afternoon residents. I cant say enough about the benifits gardening has for our residents.
sonia 16th Oct 2014
We have created a small garden at our facility. The first one was with many scented herbs and bright flowers. With a change of residents who are more abled bodied, we now have strawberries, veggies and herbs that they can eat. It's a excuse to get residents out of the facility to enjoy some sunshine and get some exercise. To keep costs down we grew plants from cuttings, asked within the community to give us seeds and I would visit the clearance corner at our local nursery. A very rewarding project for everyone.
Denise 3rd Oct 2014
What an excellent idea. We are planning an accessible garden at our land council. Your tips are really helpful



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