Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center’s Day Service Provider Jill Kanode prepares a poinsettia plant to be sold at the greenhouses that are located at the center in Princeton.

PRINCETON —  Carefully cultivation including 10 hours of darkness a day for 10 weeks went into growing the poinsettias filling a local greenhouse just in time for the holidays.

The greenhouse at the Southern Highland Community Mental Health Center started selling poinsettias Monday, according to Sherree Farmer, day program supervisor. 

“This is the second year we’ve done it, and it’s been 10 years in between,” Farmer recalled, adding that the mental health center decided to start growing them again so the greenhouse’s workers, who are also served by Southern Highlands, could work all year. Their work has resulted in hundreds of poinsettias ready for the holidays.

“We’ve done around 750 this year,” Farmer said. “It’s very pretty.”

Growing poinsettias begins with planting a bit of the plant known as a plug. People growing houseplants often start off with a small, rooted bit of another plant.

“We get a real small plug, and we started the last week of August,” Farmer said. “It’s about 2 inches, and it’s a little bit of a poinsettia and it’s got roots.”

The process of cultivating the holiday plants doesn’t stop with planting the plugs in a flower pot.

“Once you get them started, they grow for a little while. Then you have to have 10 hours of darkness a day for 10 weeks. That’s for them to change colors,” Farmer explained. 

The plants start out green, then they are placed through their darkness and light cycle. This turns them white or pink. Their colors depend on the poinsettia varieties that have been ordered, she said.

“And we have one that’s speckled,” Farmer added. “It’s red and it looks like somebody threw white all over it.”

Getting the poinsettias ready for sale takes weeks of care. The temperature they are kept in must be about 75 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night.

“September, October, November,” she said. “It takes about three months to get them full grown.”

Farmer had some advice for people who want to keep enjoying their poinsettias after Christmas.

“You don’t want to overwater them. They’re kind of picky. If you overwater, you’ll get root rot,” she said. “Mainly, they can’t be outside in the cold. Now, in summer you can put them out.”

To get their poinsettias to bloom again, owners must give the plants another daily cycle of 10 dark hours day for 10 weeks.

“For them to bloom, they always have to have that 10 weeks of darkness, starting in September,” Farmer suggested. “A lot of people put a box over them and make sure to take the box off the next day, and some people put them in the closet.” 

The greenhouse at Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Poinsettias will be sold through Christmas.

Southern Highlands is located at 200 12th Street Extension in Princeton near Princeton Community Hospital.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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