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EKU Horticulture Club's annual poinsettia sale underway

Horticulture Technician John Duvall at the poinsettia sale-Ricki Barker/Register

The greenhouses behind Eastern Kentucky University's A.B. Carter Building are bursting with color this week as the university's Horticulture Club show off months of hard work during its annual poinsettia sale.

In preparation for the holiday tradition, students began work back in the summer, carefully tending to poinsettia cuttings and making sure growing conditions were optimal to produce the impressive bright colors of the plant.

"We planted these back in August," said John Duvall, horticulture technician. "The poinsettia is a finicky plant to try and grow. They are very particular and a lot of hard work goes into making sure all of our plants are healthy."

This year, the Horticulture Club grew 1,400 poinsettias for the sale. In addition to the traditional red and white varieties, customers can also pick up newer varieties like the speckled Jingle Bells and Early Twilight.

For more than a decade, EKU's Horticulture Club has been growing and selling poinsettias during the holiday season.

As one of the club's main fundraisers, all the proceeds from the sale go towards scholarships as well as trips and activities so there is no cost to the horticulture students.

Duvall said, year after year, the community and school have been strong supporters of the club.

"A lot of offices at the university support the sale and buy poinsettias from us each year in order to decorate their offices. The Center for the Arts has also bought poinsettias from us to decorate with. The poinsettia has been a really good plant for us to sell year after year. Not only is it a great learning opportunity for the students, but we get to offer locally grown plants to the community," he said.

The horticulture technician said poinsettias, while seen in the United States as a traditional holiday symbol, are actually a tropical from Mexico.

"They are actually tropical plants, so they don't really like the cold," Duvall said with a chuckle at the irony. "It's why we keep the greenhouses in the upper 70s and 80s. They like warm temperatures, so if people place them by a window during the winter where there is a cold draft, they will usually die because it's too cold."

According to Duvall, poinsettias were introduced to the United States in 1825 when the first U.S. Minister to Mexico saw the beautiful "weed" growing along side the roadways of Mexico and decided to bring one of the plants back.

That ambassador, Joel Roberts Poinsett, would then go on to lend his name to the plant that would soon become a popular Christmas decoration in the states.

Duvall recommends taking the festive wrapper off poinsettias once home in order to allow the plant to drain properly. The wrapper is actually designed to protect the plant from sudden drops in temperature during transport from the greenhouse to its destination. He said, with proper care, a poinsettia can re-flower the next year after purchase.

Poinsettias can be purchased at the EKU greenhouses on Kit Carson Drive behind the A.B. Carter Building from noon to 1 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. each day. All plants are $8 each. Payments must be cash or check.

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Published on December 01, 2016

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