Poinsettia Fundraisers Are a Holiday Tradition at Homewood Nursery

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Poinsettia fundraisers at Homewood Nursery

Photo by Justin Kase Conder

Denise Etheridge starts thinking about poinsettias long before Christmas.

“In the middle of spring, we have poinsettias rolling into our greenhouses,” explains Etheridge, the greenhouse manager for Homewood Nursery in Raleigh. “From the time we start taking cuttings in June until we start selling the plants in December, it’s fast and furious around here.”

Homewood Nursery has been growing poinsettias since the 1970s. Over the last five decades, production has increased from a mere 1,000 plants to more than 30,000 plants, all sold in a single season.

See more: Poinsettia Power

In the process of growing ever-increasing numbers of the iconic holiday plants, the Raleigh nursery has also cultivated a reputation for having one of the region’s largest selections of poinsettias in different colors and varieties.

Etheridge grows 100 different kinds of poinsettias in all shades of red, white and pink. She also conducts trials in conjunction with North Carolina State University to showcase new varieties and allow customers to vote on their favorites.

While most customers cannot tell the difference between Jubilee Red and Prestige Red varieties, others come into the nursery asking for their favorite poinsettias by name and eagerly searching out new varieties. No one looks forward to the arrival of poinsettias in the nursery more than local nonprofits and businesses that participate in the poinsettia fundraising program.

Spreading Holiday Cheer

Homewood Nursery started selling poinsettias for local fundraisers 15 years ago, and the annual events have become an important holiday tradition.

A local Boy Scout troop was the first to approach the nursery about purchasing discounted plants, and it did not take long for other charities to follow suit. Today, Etheridge works with multiple groups from churches and nonprofit organizations to local businesses that receive special pricing to purchase larger quantities of poinsettias. Boy Scout troops are still hosting their annual poinsettia fundraisers with festive plants purchased from Homewood Nursery.

See more: 4 Tips to Help Poinsettias Last

“Because we grow all of our poinsettias in the greenhouse instead of buying them from other growers, we can discount the price,” Etheridge says. “The fundraisers are popular because poinsettias are easy to sell during the holidays; everyone loves getting a fresh poinsettia.”

While nonprofits tell Etheridge that the fundraisers are profitable, the logistics can be complicated.

In the beginning, Etheridge allowed groups to choose between all of the different sizes and colors available in the nursery, which caused chaos during distribution. Thanks to multiple tweaks over the past few years, the staff has it down to a science.

“We learn something new every year,” Etheridge says.

See more: Why You Should Buy a Real North Carolina Christmas Tree

Limiting the options to two colors and four different pot sizes helped simplify the process. Etheridge still encourages groups to offer red and white poinsettias in two different sizes – 6 ½- and 8-inch pots are the most popular – to increase the odds orders will be correct and make distribution easier. Orders are counted four times before being loaded onto the truck and delivered.

Homewood Nursery distributes 15,000 poinsettias – half of its total stock – through its early order discount program and planning starts months in advance. The first emails about the annual program go out in August and, while there are no minimums, all orders (no matter how large or small) are due in October to ensure greenhouse staff has enough plants available for the in-demand program.

Etheridge works closely with fundraising groups, providing recommendations about what varieties and sizes of poinsettias to sell, and offers guidance on setting prices. She also ensures that each poinsettia receives the proper care.

“It’s not like other fundraisers where groups sell a bag of wrapping paper or a box of chocolates,” she says. “Poinsettias are live products that need to receive proper care. We make sure [fundraising groups] know that it’s important to get plants to customers as soon as possible.”

Etheridge believes the poinsettia fundraisers are successful because Homewood Nursery grows several varieties of beautiful poinsettias in a range of colors and has earned a reputation in Raleigh for its high-quality blooms. The diversity of its poinsettia selection means that local groups can mold the fundraiser to meet their goals.

“Every year, we pick up a new customer,” she says. “Most poinsettia growers grow from rooted cuttings, but we do our own cuttings, which makes our plants top quality. The fact that groups are selling a Homewood-grown poinsettia makes it an easy sell.”

– Jodi Helmer

If You Go…

Fundraising is finalized by October, but you can still visit Homewood Nursery to buy poinsettias and other plants.

Location: 10809 Honeycutt Rd., Raleigh

Phone: (919) 847-0117

Website: homewoodnursery.com

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