Empowering occupational therapy practitioners with a playbook of functional tasks to use with their geriatric clients

Planting a Flower or Vegetable

Planting a Flower or Vegetable

A few weeks ago, I was working with a client who admitted to our facility because she was requiring more assistance with self care tasks at home. Unfortunately, her caregiver has a terminal cancer diagnosis and is declining. While they want to be together until her family member passes, they are now at the point where that might not be feasible.

In addition to wanting to be with her family member at home, this client also expressed to me multiple times that she missed the sense of purpose and responsibility she had at home. While she needed help with some self care tasks, it was important to her to be surrounded by plants and she provided daily care to these plants.

One of the goals that I was addressing with this client was improving her executive functioning skills. As we talked about her love of caring for plants, I realized that planting something in a pot for her to care for in her room at the facility would not only fit in with our goal of improving her executive functioning skills but would also help to give her an ongoing sense of purpose and responsibility.


Assess and develop client’s executive functioning skills


Players: Great for 1:1 treatment – Good for Group/Concurrent Treatment

Time Frame

10-20 minutes

Materials Required

  • Potting soil
  • Small pot
  • Gloves
  • Plant appropriate for conditions (seedling or seed)
  • A watering can (or large cup) with water
  • Written direction for planting a flower or vegetable, if needed


  • Set up an area inside or outside that can get dirty. Cover a table with newspaper or plastic if desired.


  1. Direct the client to fill the pot partway with soil. If using a seedling, a good rule of thumb is to fill the pot enough that when the small container the plant is currently in placed inside the bigger pot, the tops of the containers are even. If using a seed, follow instructions for depth on the seed packet.
  2. Have the client place the seedling or seed in the pot on top of the dirt.
  3. Direct the client to continue filling the pot with soil, filling in around the seedling or on top of the seed. Instruct the client to leave a bit of space ½”-1” at from the top of the soil to the top of the pot to allow for watering.
  4. Encourage the client to water the plant.
  5. Review care instructions for the plant with the client. Facilitate the client’s preparation of written instructions if needed.

Special Notes

When selecting a plant, consider the amount of light and water the plant will need. Match the plants needs to the client’s ability if the client will be keeping the plant.

If the plant is going to be kept in a community area such as the therapy gym or a common area in a facility, as part of this activity the client can create written instructions for the care of the plant as well as a calendar or journal to document when care is needed or given. In the future, following these instructions for the regular care of the plan can be an intervention for this client or others.

If the client has pain, weakness, or coordination deficits in their hands, choose a lightweight plastic pot instead of a heavier ceramic pot.

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