December is a month away, but down at the horticulture unit, three greenhouses are already filled wall-to-wall with poinsettias for this year’s Poinsettia Project.

Two students, two teachers and a few horticulture unit employees are growing 2,500 to 3,000 poinsettias to sell in mid-December.

The poinsettias cost between $5 and $50, depending on their size, and will be sold at Cal Poly’s horticulture unit the weekend before finals. The project also sells poinsettias to off-campus buyers, such as churches and individual members of the San Luis Obispo community, according to horticulture and crop science professor Susan Snyder. 

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Video by Lauren Walike

In July, the horticulture unit imported 3,000 poinsettia cuttings from Central and South America. A cutting is a 1.5 inch tall stem with two to three leaves that will root and grow into a plant, according to Snyder. In August, students transplanted the cuttings into pots that ranged from four to six inches wide, then moved them to a greenhouse, where they grew to maturity, Snyder said. 

In past years, the Poinsettia Project was an enterprise project, which meant students were responsible for all aspects of the sale, including scheduling, planting, growing and sales. This year, the project was converted into a class where students attend lectures on poinsettias, receive guidance from their professors and are helped by horticulture unit employees. 

“Going to a class, there’s a lot less pressure on the students to get all the work done,” agricultural and environmental plant sciences senior Justin Williams said. “We get to focus more on really learning what’s going on with the crop, and you can kind of focus on your own classes too. When it’s a project, it’s a really big responsibility, and you’re here all summer. You have to be here during the breaks – it’s all on you.”

Unlike previous years – where students received two-thirds of the sale profits – all money generated by the project will go to the horticulture unit, Snyder said. However, the switch allowed more horticulture unit employees to get involved. 

“So far it’s been really rewarding to see [the poinsettias] grow bigger, and also as they change colors right now,” horticulture unit employee and agricultural and environmental plant sciences senior Connor Hamilton said. “It’s really cool to see the fruits of your labor.”

One goal of the project’s staff is to grow different colored poinsettias. 

“That’s what we really love to do here, is to grow the assortment,” Snyder said. “That’s what our customers who come during open house love to see and buy.”

Along with red poinsettias, the horticulture unit is growing white, pink, red with pink speckles and even orange plants, according to Snyder. 

“My favorite part is kind of right now when everything is starting to come into flower, and you’re starting to see all the colors come through,”  Williams said. “You kind of get excited seeing them finish.”

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