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US (GA): Horticulture students offering locally grown Christmas cheer

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at UGA’s Riverbend Greenhouse Complex.

From icy white to traditional deep red, the latest crop of poinsettias grown by the Tau chapter of Pi Alpha Xi horticultural honor society (PAX) is ready to help spread holiday cheer.  

The students grew more than 1,000 poinsettias this year and will spend the next two weeks distributing them to university organizations, local churches and individuals. The annual sale raises money for chapter events and helps fund student scholarships for members.

Members of UGA's Tau chapter of Pi Alpha Xi Horticultural Honor Society will host their annual poinsettia sale on Dec. 7 from 8 am. to 4 p.m. at Greenhouse 13 at the UGA Riverbend Greenhouse at 111 Riverbend Road.

“We have a wide variety of both traditional poinsettias and specialty poinsettias,” said Garrett Ford, vice president of the Tau chapter and sales chair for the sale. “There are those who really like a traditional looking red or white poinsettia, and then there are those who want something unique, so we like to have a nice mix.”

All plants are $6 to $12 apiece, and orders can be placed by emailing [email protected]. Shoppers will have the chance to pick up a poinsettia at the Pi Alpha Xi greenhouse sale at the UGA Riverbend Road Greenhouse Complex at 111 Riverbend Road from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 7.  

There will be 12 varieties available this year, from reds and pinks to whites and variegated varieties. The assortment gives Athens consumers the chance to buy poinsettia cultivars that they may not have ever seen before, but the breadth of cultivars makes poinsettias a tricky crop.

“The most difficult part of growing the poinsettias is the variety of cultivars we have,” said Eleanor Rager, a third-year horticulture major from Douglasville, Georgia. “Each one needs different amounts of water and fertilizer and different treatments.”

While the chapter holds the sale as a fundraiser, Ford says there is more to it than just money. The poinsettia crop is the keystone project for the students’ advanced greenhouse management course.

“Our former advisor, the late Dr. Paul Thomas, decided that this poinsettia sale was what the Tau chapter of Pi Alpha Xi was going to be known for. He built the tradition that we have been fortunate enough to be able to carry on,” Ford said. “Furthermore, he instructed many of us that poinsettias are a great crop to grow as a student because they are quite tedious when it comes to care, so we as students have to really use our noggins and put our horticulture skills to the test.”

Members of PAX will be preselling the plants up until the open greenhouse sale. For any other questions, contact the chapter at [email protected].

Source: University of Georgia (Chad Cain)

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