When thousands of graduate and undergraduate Iowa State students participate in next month’s fall commencement inside Hilton Coliseum, they’ll parade past cardinal red poinsettias courtesy of the school’s student horticulture club.
When employees who work under ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard return to work after the holiday break, they too will find the traditional Christmas plant on each of their desks — thanks, again, to the student growers.
“We grow 400 in our greenhouse, and we have sold just about that,” Iowa State University horticulture senior Amanda Van Scoy said of the club’s annual fundraiser that has thrived with expanded marketing and pre-order opportunities. “It has become pretty successful.”
Over the course of at least 15 years, the fundraiser has made the ISU Horticulture Club the go-to poinsettia provider for at least the ISU campus, if not the surrounding area. And this year promises to be no different — with the group taking 135 preorders, such as from Pollard, ISU commencement organizers and ISU dining, which decorates its centers with the plants for the holidays.
In addition to the preorders, the club in early December will open pop-up poinsettia sale sites at Curtiss and Beardshear halls, the Memorial Union and Reiman Gardens. The students primarily have grown five varieties — including standard red and white, “red glitter,” pink and also “gold rush,” to round out the Cyclone’s cardinal and gold school colors, Van Scoy said.
Two sizes are available: 6-inch plants for $15 each and 10-inch plants for $35.
Net revenue for the fundraiser reaches a couple thousand annually, according to Van Scoy.
“I have been told it makes up a significant portion of our budget,” she said, noting that the budget funds educational opportunities for the horticulture students, from guest speakers, to industry tours, to reimbursement for participation and travel to relevant competitions.
But the initiative isn’t all about the money.
The horticulture students get their poinsettia plugs in August from a provider in Cresco, timing their receipt just right for a holiday sale. The students must decide when to buy the plugs, depending on the variety, based on the work necessary to stabilize, root, pinch and finish them.
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“So they are fully grown and ready to sell during the first week of December,” Van Scoy said.
Before that, the student group sends a mass email about the upcoming sale to its customer base, soliciting preorders, pickup sites and some deliveries.
“So it’s a learning experience on different levels — growing, organizing orders, packaging them, and taking them to the customers as well,” Van Scoy said.
The implementation of poinsettia preorders, along with the growing popularity of that option, have pushed up sale totals, with the about 111 preorders last year climbing to 135 this year.
“We don’t generally have too many left over,” Van Scoy said.
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