While Floridians aren’t likely to see snow during the holidays, they can still enjoy the winter season with poinsettias grown by the University of Florida’s Environmental Horticulture Club.
The club will host its 23rd annual poinsettia sale from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 and 7. The sale will be held at the horticulture greenhouse behind Fifield Hall, 2475 Memorial Rd. Gainesville, FL 32611. Open to the public each year, the sale receives visitors who travel from all over Florida (and states across the East Coast) to see what the UF Environmental Horticulture Club has produced.
“The sale provides the opportunity to gain greenhouse experience and learn how to produce valuable ornamental crops,” said Marina Curtis, a member of the UF Environmental Horticulture Club. “Growing them by hand, you get the same sort of joy you get from gardening, and it’s so fun to see those first colors come in. It’s great to work with fellow students. Participating in the whole process gives you a real sense of agency.”
This year, UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students have worked hard to prepare the 16,000 square-foot-display for the largest student-run plant sale in the country.
The sale will feature more than 5,000 plants of 46 different varieties, some of which can’t even be found at local garden centers. These varieties include the award winning, traditional red Ferrara as well as many novelty varieties such as Polly’s Pink, Autumn Leaves and White Stars.
Germinated poinsettia seedlings, or plugs, are provided by various companies that send newly created varieties to the students in the early summer. After receiving the plugs, the Environmental Horticulture Club creates a production schedule to optimally grow these new varieties into healthy poinsettias ready to be purchased. The students perform experiments to test how heat affects the plants’ growth, which allows the students to better understand ornamental greenhouse management practices and research.
The proceeds of this plant sale are used by the club to help support the international educational travel of its members. Last year, members of the club visited Spain, where they learned about unique horticultural practices at the La Concepcion Botanical Gardens, Almeria University and at local farms that produced commodities such as wine grapes and tomatoes. This year, students will be visiting Hawaii to learn about producing crops like sugarcane, pineapples, coffee and macadamia nuts.
“Poinsettias make great gifts for friends and family. You’re supporting the student industry and helping us kick start our careers while sourcing your plants locally,” said Curtis, a horticultural science major in CALS. “Come out, enjoy the day and get in the holiday spirit with some Poinsettias!”