By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY — Carefully cultivated by 30 pairs of trained hands for four months, the poinsettias at the Prosser Career Education Center’s greenhouse are up for sale.
Mike Johnson, Prosser’s horticulture teacher, said his students have been taking care of this year’s crop since August. He said the red, white, marble or jingle bell poinsettias are up for grabs at the same price they’ve been for five years — $6.50.
He said for that price, the plants are pretty much in line what other stores charge, but the money goes back to something other than just a grower.
“They’d be supporting education, that’s the biggie,” Johnson said. “That’s the only reason we do it — for the students to get education. Plus, you’re getting a fresh, locally grown product.”
Brittney Durham, a senior at Salem High School, is the greenhouse manager for Prosser this year. She said she thinks the experience students get in all facets of caring for the plants is valuable.
“I just like to be out in the greenhouse rather than sitting in classroom,” Durham said. “I think we get more out of being out here with hands-on things than sitting in a classroom for two hours with book work.”
Students begin growing the plants in August. From there, Johnson said they manage fertilizing, watering, potting, insect control and other care. He said he’s proud of the work his students have done with about 1,500 plants in the greenhouse.
“I’ve checked out a few of our local box stores and I would put ours against theirs, I think they’re better quality,” Johnson said. “Especially if they’ve been in the box store for a day or two.”
But Durham said the plants were affected by weather this year. She said they had to throw away a lot of plants that had complications because of the heat.
But Johnson said the plants that survived are still in good shape.
“We couldn’t get the temperatures down enough,” Johnson said. “They’re a little shorter than usual, but they’re still nice plants.”
Johnson said lots of people who get poinsettias have trouble caring for them, but said it can be relatively easy to keep the plant alive well past the holidays.
He said people tend to over-water the plants, adding that most plants should be fine with checking the soil for moisture once a week. If there’s moisture, he said there’s no need to water them.
However, he said should poinsettia owners feel the need to water daily, poke holes through the foil and the pot, set it on a saucer and give water an opportunity to drain out. He said not to give the plant more than a quarter or half cup of water a week.
He also said to keep them away from lots of sunlight and heat.
“Basically, the cooler you can keep them, the better,” Johnson said.
Wait! Aren’t those poisonous?
Though poinsettias have an infamous reputation for their toxicity in children and pets, they don’t live up to the lethal rumors.
Bill Hesse, owner and veterinarian at Ridgeview Animal Clinic in New Albany, said while you don’t want your cat to dine on your plants unsupervised, it’s unlikely it will die from eating part of a poinsettia.
He said animals may get sick, vomit, or have an otherwise upset stomach from chewing on a plant, but it will likely survive.
“I wouldn’t allow the animals to eat the plants,” Hesse said. “You wouldn’t want your dog to get sick and things like that. But if you have a pet that’s used to having houseplants around, it’s probably not too much of a risk if you can supervise them well enough.”
He said household items than can cause real toxic problems for pets include, chocolate, grapes and onions.
And children aren’t at fatal risk if they eat part of a plant, either.
According to www.mayoclinic.com, poinsettias aren’t poisonous to humans. The website says parents should get a child away from a plant if they’re trying to eat it, but the worst it would likely cause is stomachache, vomiting or diarrhea.
However, the website also says people who have latex allergies should be careful because latex and poinsettias share several proteins. If an allergic reaction becomes severe, the website recommends seeking immediate medical attention.