As December approaches, the UNL horticulture club is preparing for its winter poinsettia sale. The plants outside may be dying in the colder temperatures, but on East Campus, there are three greenhouses for different classes and extracurricular activities to grow and nurture plants year-round.
The horticulture club utilizes the West teaching greenhouse. Each school year, the club hosts plant sales to fundraise for trips and events and to buy supplies for growing.
The club’s president, Sarah Wulf, is a senior horticulture major. She hosts bi-weekly meetings, collaborates with the club’s officers and keeps the club’s 48 registered members informed.
The club uses the NvolveU platform to post their event schedule. NvolveU provides all UNL students with an online database of events from different student organizations. The four main events are the club’s annual plant sales.
The club holds a fall foliage plant sale, a winter poinsettia sale, a spring annual plant bedding sale and a Valentine’s Day succulent sale. One of the club’s officer positions is the head grower, who cares for the plants in their designated greenhouse.
This year’s head grower is Nathan Starr, a senior horticulture major. Starr transferred to UNL for his senior year and immediately got involved with the horticulture club. He took the vacant head grower position in the fall.
“My previous plant science classes helped me to have an understanding of the tasks I had to do,” Starr said.
Though the greenhouse is insulated, the soil still absorbs less water in the colder temperatures. In the warmer months, Starr watered the plants everyday, but since early November, he has reduced his greenhouse visits to once every other day.
Starr is responsible for managing the plants for their four sales. He takes care of house plants in the fall, several types of poinsettias in the winter, succulents in February and flowering plants for the spring sale.
On average, Starr spends 30 minutes tending to the club’s plants every time he visits the greenhouse. Each time he waters the plants, Starr alternates between a fertilizer and calcium treatment that is infused with the hose water.
“The plants need it [the calcium treatment] so they stay strong in the stems and so they don’t get chlorosis around the edges of the leaves,” Starr said.
Chlorosis turns leaves yellow and results from a lack of nutrients. In addition to insecticide, the different water treatments keep the plants nourished and flourishing before they are sold.
Starr has been caring for nine different types of poinsettias in the greenhouse in three different sized pots. The price for the four inch pots of poinsettias will be $8, the 6-inch will cost $15 and the 8-inch will cost $25.
The Winter Poinsettia Sale will be held in both campus unions on Dec. 1 and 2. The poinsettia sale is one of the club’s most successful events each year. The earnings from this year’s sale will help the club prepare for their upcoming trip to Florida over spring break.
On these trips, the club engages in educational networking as well as bonding activities. Over fall break, the club traveled to Scottsbluff to visit the North Platte Natural Resources District greenhouse and Chimney Rock, among other attractions. Wulf is grateful that the club can resume their travel plans now that some pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“Last school year, we had to have most of our meetings online over zoom, which allowed for more guest speakers but we definitely lost involvement,” Wulf said. “This year though, we have a larger group of regulars that come to most meetings and that has been great to see.”
During winter break, the West greenhouse will be nearly empty without any plants from the horticulture club, but in early February, Starr will begin taking care of succulents for the Valentine’s Day sale.
“We have a really fun time taking care of plants just being plant nerds together and it’s open to any student, you don’t have to be a horticulture or even an east campus major student to come join us,” Wulf Said.