The Cheaper Chia Pet

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

Often I'm prompted to purchase the funny yet fun Chia Pet. It seems like a perfect introduction to gardening for children, yet at $20 a piece it's too pricey. The plants grown on the Chia Pet are chia, an inexpensive and easily maintained plant from Mexico. While a cheaper plant can always be presented to a child, it won't have the entertainment value of a head of plant "hair".


As a Chia alternative, miniature plant heads can be made for much less. You'll substitute the clay head for a nylon ball of soil, and grass will serve to replace the chia plants, but it'll get the same amount of smiles and you can make several for party favors or holiday gifts for the young planters in the family.

To Make a Cheap Chia You'll Need:

  • small plastic pots
  • a pair of nylon stockings (stockings with a run are perfect)
  • grass seed or some other easy-to-grow plant seed
  • lightweight potting soil
  • thick cotton string
  • a clear plastic cup large enough to cover the entire plant
  • permanent water-proof glue
  • google eyes

To Prepare Your Fun Friend:

  1. Braid the string into a thick 1/4 inch thick string about two inches long and place aside.

  2. Cut the nylon stocking into a small square that can be secured at one end to create a ball proportionate to your pot. The ball will be filled with potting soil and should sit evenly on top of your plant pot without falling inside and without being too large.

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  4. Mix the grass seed with some potting soil to create a 75% grass to 25% soil mixture. Add water to create a paste-like texture. Layer this about 1/8 inch thick on what will be the top of your nylon ball. Pulling the nylon into a ball shape, fill it with soil mixture.

  5. Before securing the nylon ball, insert the braided string fully into the soil and secure the end, leaving the other end to dangle from the ball. You'll now have a ball of soil with seed captured at the top and a braided wick hanging from the bottom.

  6. Decorate your pot with a Sharpie to show a mouth. Draw a toothy grin or some other funny personality.

  7. Using waterproof glue, add the google eyes to the soil ball on what will now be the front of your face.

  8. When the glue is dry, submerge the ball of dirt in water for a minute or two until it is fully soaked.

  9. Fill the pot with water and set the ball of dirt on top, being sure that the wick is fully submerged into the water.

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  11. Set the entire plant on a sunny windowsill and place the clear plastic cup over the top to serve as a greenhouse. In a few days, the seeds will sprout. When they do, remove and discard the plastic cup. Be sure to keep the pot filled with water by lifting the ball of dirt and filling it with the wick inside the water.

  12. Trim the "hair" as it grows into any style you wish.

Want to make these as gifts?

Type these directions on fun paper and package all the ingredients together inside of the clear cup. Add ribbon around the cup and place a cardboard circle on top of the cup as a lid. Prepare the dirt ball ahead of time, leaving your recipient to begin at step five.

The Cheaper Chia Pet

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at


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In This Article
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