Outdoor planting ideas for schools and educational facilities

Plants and flowers are a great feature for boosting the atmosphere of many public places. From offices to hospitals, and everything in between, they make an excellent addition to these environments not just because of their visual appeal, but because of their ability to improve our health and mental well-being. This makes them ideal for high-stress and high-activity environments, such as schools and colleges.


By designing a functional, yet beautiful outdoor space in the grounds of your school, college, or university, you can develop an environment that will help to support overall learning, as well as build a place that the community can enjoy.


Take a look at some of the main benefits of outdoor planting in schools and educational facilities and how you can incorporate plants into an educational space.


The benefits of plants and garden spaces in schools


In a report conducted by The National Trust, it highlights that children are spending less time outdoors, which has led to an indoor lifestyle contributing to increased obesity and poor fitness in children aged between two and 15. A subsequent study commissioned by The Children’s Society [1] highlighted there is also increase in children suffering from behavioural and emotional problems due to lack of physical and mental stimulation.


To tackle the above issues in childhood, planting a garden space and having beautiful displays around school grounds provide huge benefits for learning and mental inspiration. Similar to the advantages of plants in classroom environments, outdoor plants also boost health and wellbeing for both children and adults. Some of the main benefits include:


  • Reducing stress and anxiety levels
  • Boosting memory and concentration
  • Creating a healthier and more active environment
  • Encouraging creativity
  • Building a sense of community and awareness of sustainable living
  • Reducing sickness and absence levels


These areas help to promote a healthier environment for students of all ages, however, they also provide extensive educational benefits for children. Outdoor learning has proven to give developmental advantages to a child’s physical and mental wellbeing, and it can transform mundane lessons into interesting and interactive experiences. Persil’s recent ‘Dirt is Good’ [2] campaign showcases that the average child spends more time indoors than a maximum-security prisoner and this stark statistic proves how quickly lifestyles are changing. By encouraging children to play outside and discover the world around them, it can boost their motivation, which supports classroom-based learning and improves their cognitive and social development.


Making learning fun


school children in blue jumpers being taught about different types of plants

In Primary schools, getting out of the classroom can make learning interesting and exciting, so by incorporating nature focused areas or spaces with vibrant flora and foliage will help to keep children focused on the task at hand. Simple projects, such as drawing their favourite flowers or enjoying story time in amongst green spaces can have a calming and engaging effect on learning.


They provide natural shade


Another benefit of trees and larger plants in school grounds is that they provide natural shade on sunny days. This keeps students cool without installing structures with hard lines. The extremely modern architecture of some educational facilities can make schools seem like a concrete prison, and a stressful intimidating place where children aren’t happy to spend their time. To help create a more relaxing space while complementing the design of a building and its grounds, planting a green screen with climbing plants along walls and boundaries will provide a natural appearance that blends into the landscape.


Plants suitable for educational environments


Health and safety is a primary concern in educational environments, and this can be particularly prevalent in its outside spaces. For children to enjoy their surroundings, ensuring the plants and foliage around a school are safe for children is essential. Some plants may cause allergic reactions such as hay fever or skin irritations, while others may have poisonous parts if consumed. There is a comprehensive list here from the RHS on what to look out for when planning outdoor planting areas in your school.


There are many plants that are suitable for school environments, and they make beautiful spaces for a sensory experience. Others can help to support a thriving space for nature and somewhere children can come to support their learning. Some examples include:


  • For a vibrant area – Pansies, Crocus, Sunflowers, Daffodils, and Lavender
  • For a sensory space – Bamboo, Lamb’s ears and lemon-scented geranium
  • Hardy plants for playgrounds – Evergreen shrubs, Rosa Glauca and Miscanthus


Using both indoor and outdoor plants, you can promote a healthier and happier environment for both teachers and pupils. Contact phs Greenleaf to find out more about our range.


[1] https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/research/well-being/good-childhood-inquiry


[2] https://www.dirtisgood.com/stories/free-the-kids.html