Horticulture Students Take On Hundreds Of Poinsettias

They're bright, they're beautiful, and most of us are lucky if we can keep them alive through the holidays. Poinsettias need lots of TLC to survive. So imagine the work involved with growing hundreds of the plants. Horticulture students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College took on that challenge and found out it takes more than a green thumb to succeed.

Turn the school greenhouse red - that was the goal. But convincing nearly 300 poinsettias to change colors took a lot of encouragement.

Gary Hinson is in his last semester at the Perkinston campus. He says the key is "you have to have so many dark nights with complete darkness in order for plants to change to this red color. We have to cover them up at night and then uncover them in the morning."

The students say it wasn't easy caring for a plant that's delicate to the touch and extremely vulnerable to disease, temperature and insects.

"We've had a problem with white flies coming in this time of year, so we've had to be more intensified with our insecticide applications," said student Stephan Trochessett..

Despite extensive research and visits to several nurseries, there were setbacks.

Instructor Don Antie said the group "put them in too much sun light and they started dropping leaves on the bottom. Then we had another experience about a month ago where the middle leaves started rolling up."

Still, Antie says he welcomed the challenge of growing so many poinsettias. He says from this project blooms lessons on patience, team work, and dealing with adversity.

"You can learn just as much by failure or more than you can by success," said Antie. "Fortunately, we learned by success this year. Had we failed, or had we not had any of these to grow, then next year we could have taken that information and tried again."

Success the first time out has left students proud of what they've accomplished and enjoying the beautiful rewards of their work.

Instructor Don Antie says many of the poinsettias will go to schools, charities and nursing homes.

Here are some of Don's tips for keeping poinsettias healthy:

1. Keep the temperature from nearing extreme heat or extreme cold. Near 70 degrees is good.

2. Do not over water.

3. Keep away from direct sunlight.

4. In the beginning, cover the plant at night for 30 straight minutes.