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A Chia Pet® is a novelty planter in the shape of an animal or human figure. To use the planter, people plaster it with seeds, and when the seeds sprout, the sprouts look like fur or hair. While the Chia Pet® is designed primarily as a novelty, it is technically possible to eat the sprouts, and people can grow herbs and other types of sprouts on their planters, should they so desire. These planters can be ordered directly from the company, or purchased at stores which stock home supplies.
The first Chia Pet® was the Chia Ram, released in 1982 by a company based in San Francisco, California. These planters quickly swept the popular culture of the 1980s, becoming a hit item with people of all ages, and they were a much desired item in some communities. Many people grew familiar with the company's slogan, “watch it grow,” and the distinctive television commercials to promote the Chia Pet®, featuring time-lapse photography and a catchy theme song.
Although the Chia Pet® has yet to return to the height of popularity it reached in the 1980s, the product continues to be a steady seller for the parent company. A number of variations including kittens, puppies, turtles, and alligators have been released, along with licensed products linked to major movie franchises, and the heads of popular public figures, including the President of the United States.
The Chia Pet® consists of a terra-cotta animal figurine which has been grooved or textured. Certain features may be painted or left smooth to discourage the growth of sprouts in these areas. To use the planter, people soak the planter and the included seeds in water overnight, and then smear the seeds over the grooved area and set the planter in the sun to grow, with a drip tray to catch excess water. Within a week, the Chia Pet® will be covered in a fine layer of sprouts, and as long as it is kept moist, the sprouts can persist for several weeks.
The planters come with enough seeds for three rounds, and people can purchase replacement packs. People can also use their own seeds, growing sprouts and various herbs on the Chia Pet®. As a general rule, the seeds which work best are those which sprout quickly, and form a jelly-like coating when soaked in water. The jelly helps the seeds to stick to the Chia Pet® while they start growing.
If a Chia Pet® turns yellow or fails to thrive, it may be getting too much light or not enough light. Drying is a common problem in some regions, and it can be addressed by making a miniature greenhouse with a plastic bag while the seeds sprout. Pets are often intrigued by the planter, and cats especially may chew on the sprouts; cat owners may consider planting cat grass instead of the included chia seeds for their cats.
I'd like to see chia pets marketed as customizable into family members' likenesses, using pictures or moldable. My hubby is bald, I'd love to make a chia pet of him! (excellent holiday gift!)