Clemson researcher tells poinsettia growers to ‘cool it’ in order to time plants to the holidays

Timing is everything in the plant-cuttings and ornamental plant industries. Plants need to arrive healthy and ready to go. Figuring out how to keep the plants in good condition is a major challenge for the industry.

Clemson floriculture physiologist Jim Faust works in two areas to plant growers keep their plants at their peak. Faust is an internationally recognized expert in growing poinsettias. He recently has published research that will help poinsettia growers figure how low of a temperature they can keep their greenhouses in order to have the plants look their best during the winter holidays. Adjusting the temperature also can save fuel costs, adding to the bottom line.

The plant cuttings industry depends on getting fresh young starter plants from Central America to grow out in the United States. Packing the cuttings so that they stay cool – not cold – during their trip to the states is a major challenge. Currently, cuttings are flown in, which is expensive. Faust and Scott Whiteside (Clemson Packaging Science Department) are researching ways to configure ice packs in insulated cartons to keep the cutting in good condition. Their goal is to develop a package that can be sent by boat, which cut costs substantially.

The research can lower costs and raise revenues for growers at home and abroad. Poinsettias, which were first popularized in Greenville, are a multimillion-dollar seasonal business. Growers have only from Thanksgiving until Christmas to sell they plants. Research that helps them slow down or speed up plant development can ensure top quality poinsettias when people want them.

For more information: James Brown-Faust, 864-656-4986, jfaust@clemson.edu