Students enterprising poinsettias
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 7, 2004 1:55 PM
Horticulture students in Wayne County high schools are learning more than just how to grow plants. Teachers also plant the seeds on how to work with customers and sell their wares.
It all blooms into a marketing effort -- flowers in the spring, poinsettias at Christmas.
Students at Eastern Wayne, Rosewood, Southern Wayne and Spring Creek high schools start working toward the holiday sale soon after the school year begins.
Ricky Joyner, FFA adviser and agriculture and horticulture teacher at Southern Wayne, says that in order to have the poinsettias ready by December, his classes begin potting rooted cuttings in late August. The amount of light the plants receive is critical to the growth process.
"We light them at night for four hours to make them think it's a long day," he said.
In order for them to begin blooming by early October, the procedure changes, with "the dark treatment," Joyner said.
By the time Daylight Savings Time ends, he said, "there's enough hours of darkness, so we cut the timer off so they get the regular day and night length."
Southern Wayne has had a greenhouse since February 1996. Only Eastern Wayne has a larger greenhouse and quantity of plants for sale every year.
Henry Pasour has taught horticulture and agriscience at Eastern Wayne for four years. He said that this year his three classes produced 1,900 poinsettia plants, more than double what was done last year.
"We never seemed to have enough," he said of previous sale years.
Pasour said the success has occurred entirely by word of mouth. He said he works with his students on promoting and selling the products as part of the classroom experience. The schools do not pay for advertising, he said, so as not to compete with the retail market.
"This is to teach not only how to grow them but how to market them," he said. "Horticulture involves producing plants and running a retail establishment."
Pasour said the plants are brought into his shop classroom, where students are taught to spruce up them up with wrapping and bows, ready to be sold.
Hours of business coincide with school hours, so customers typically come into the class while students are working on other projects. Every customer has different needs, Pasour said, so interaction with the public becomes part of the students' training.
Gabe Mitchell, horticulture teacher at Rosewood High, said that one thing his students have learned is that it takes a lot more time and effort to care for poinsettias than it does spring and fall plants.
He said the school's greenhouse is only five years old and smaller than those at the other schools. This year, his classes produced 160 plants for sale.
The products offered at each school vary, as do the prices. Typically, suggested times to visit the schools to purchase a plant are during regular school hours. This year's sale is expected to wrap up by the last day of classes before Christmas break, Dec. 16.
Rosewood's sale hours are weekdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. until noon. Red, white, pink and burgundy plants will be sold for $6 each.
Spring Creek is offering red, white and pink poinsettia plants for $8 each.
Eastern Wayne has red, white, pink and variegated plants ranging in price from $1 to $25 depending on the sizes.
Southern Wayne features a choice of red, white and pink plants being sold for $8.50 with a bow, $7 without.
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