URI Master Gardeners offer 63 varieties of poinsettias for sale, Dec. 5

Plants were part of National Poinsettia Trials

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 18, 2009 — The University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners will offer 63 varieties of poinsettias for sale to the public on Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to noon. The sale of the 1,100 unusual plants, plus a limited number of handmade wreaths, centerpieces, and other holiday decorations, will take place in the Master Gardener greenhouses at URI’s East Farm on Route 108 in Kingston.

Proceeds from the sale fund Master Gardener programs throughout Rhode Island.

The poinsettias are not the ordinary run-of-the-mill plants available in every big box store during the holidays, according to Master Gardener Francine McVay, who coordinated the project. The plants cannot be found in any store, and because many of them are new varieties, they haven’t even been named yet.

All of the plants were part of the National Poinsettia Trial. Seedlings were provided to the URI Master Gardeners by three commercial poinsettia growers – Ecke, Syngenta and Dummen/Red Fox – and 90 volunteer gardeners cared for them and collected data about them throughout the growing season. Now that the trials are complete, the plants can be sold to the public.

“Growing poinsettias is a demanding job,” McVay said. “The plants are extremely sensitive to temperature and light. If they don’t receive the required hours of darkness, they will not set flower buds. And then there are the armies of insect pests – whiteflies, fungus gnats, and aphids – we had to manage.”

McVay said that while it may be more convenient to purchase poinsettias at the corner store, it’s worth a trip to URI for the quality and variety of plants available.

“These plants are cultivars that growers hope will be available someday to the public, but at this sale, connoisseurs and the curious can browse and buy them now,” she said. “With 63 varieties, the choice is mind-boggling – that is if you get there early before the most unique plants have been scooped up.”

For additional information about the poinsettia sale, contact McVay at 401-225-3551.