By Madeline Ostendorf
Hannah Kramer and the seven members of the Poinsettia Fundraising Committee sit in the Horticulture Hall Greenhouse on Tuesday evenings, leaning against tables of multicolored poinsettias that fill the space. The committee is in the final stages of measuring and breeding more than 450 plants to send to Iowa State University students, faculty and staff.
Cramer, a horticulture major, is executive director of the Horticulture Club’s annual poinsettia sale. She begins planning the annual fundraiser in March, reviewing sales results from the previous year and deciding what to order and grow for the current year.
“I look at when our sell-by date is, and then I work backwards to determine when to plant the cuttings and when to prepare the poinsettias,” Kramer said. “We can order some large plants, but they need to be planted early in the summer when nobody is here, and planting them is the fun part for most members.”
This is Kramer’s first year running the Poinsettia Sale event. All members of the horticulture club help with the sale itself, but the club officers encouraged Kramer to take on the task of raising the pinsetias.
Kramer specializes in the greenhouse plant production option in the horticulture major. In her classroom, she is learning how to grow poinsettias among other flowers, trees and shrubs in a market greenhouse. She takes this knowledge and applies it to her executive work.
“Students take four greenhouse classes as part of their degree program, and the Poinsettia Project allows students to use the knowledge gained in those classes and apply it to real-world crops,” said Barb Clawson, Horticulture Department and Student Services Specialist. Club advisor.
This year’s plants, started from root cuttings, were shipped to the Horticultural Hall greenhouse in August from Plant Peddler, a greenhouse club in northeast Iowa that typically orders from. A few weeks before the annual sale in November, Kramer orders large poinsettias and specialty varieties that are popular with customers.
“People think about the plants around them,” Kramer said. “We ordered some white poinsettias, red and white variegated and orange. Not too many, however, because I don’t want to go over.”
After all the rooted shrubs are planted in August, the club will spend the next two months tending to the growing plants and monitoring their condition.
“We monitor their height, root zone fertilizer levels and pH levels to help them grow better,” Kramer said. “That way, if they’re too long, we’re not waiting until the end when there’s nothing we can do. If we know they’re too short, we can raise them sooner.”
Kramer maintains an expected growth chart for each poinsettia variety and the committee evaluates whether the plant weighs as expected.
The committee waters the poinsettias by hand for the first several weeks, then sets up a drip irrigation system to maintain consistent moisture. Since the poinsettias are already individually potted, any possible issues are isolated to a single plant.
“The hard work is mostly done,” Cramer said of pre-sale maintenance. “Now it’s just a matter of getting to the finish line.”
Pre-orders for the Poinsettia sale are open online until November 18. Order selections are available on sale dates. Locations change daily and can be selected on the pre-order sheet.
- November 30 from 9 am – 3 pm in the Curtis Rotunda
- December 1 from 9 am – 3 pm in Bershear Hall
- December 2 from 9 am – 3 pm in the Horticulture Hall
- December 3 from 10 am – 2 pm in Ryman Gardens