IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/CALS graduate students host annual coleus plant sale

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS

Please see caption below photo.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  The Environmental Horticulture Graduate Student Association (EHGSA) will host its 18th annual plant sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 25 and 26. The sale will be held at the University of Florida horticulture greenhouses, 2475 Memorial Road, Gainesville. This is the fourth year the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student organization will feature coleus plants.

The graduate students recently began featuring coleus to showcase the plant breeding that happens at UF and the plants club members have grown themselves. All coleus sold at the event have been patented by UF. The sale will also include donated plants from local horticulturalists.

“The coleus we are selling are mostly available commercially, but not all in one place considering the amount of varieties we have,” said Tia Tyler, EHGSA president. “We already have people calling to make sure they don’t miss the sale. It’s nice to see we are picking up a following.”

New coleus varieties to be sold at the event include Velveteen (a dark burgundy leaf with a pink center) and Salsa Verde (a lime color). The Gator Glory variety with orange leaves and yellow highlights is not available commercially and was recently retired as UF’s official plant.

“This sale is the only place in the world you can get Gator Glory,” said UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor Dave Clark. “The year 2015 was the first year the club sold this variety and it sold out in 50 minutes.”

According to Clark, more than 30 million UF coleus plants have been sold and have generated more than a million dollars in royalties as of 2016. Most of the earnings go back into the lab to fund new ventures.

Because coleus are so colorful and tolerant of sun and shade, Tyler said there are a lot of options with how to use the plants. She said the plants can grow in a landscape or container, and can be mixed in with a perennial bed to add color. Coleus are annuals and do not survive a hard frost, though some people have been known to keep their coleus plants alive year-round by bringing pots in on cold nights. The plants are also easy to propagate from cuttings.

The students began growing coleus for the sale in December. Once a week, the club members meet to prune and check up on the plants. Right before the sale, the students space out the coleus and pinch them back to grow into nice bush forms.

Last year, the club earned about $15,000 to fund grants to send students to horticulture conferences and an annual club field trip. In the past, club trips have included visits to land restoration sites, botanical gardens, and other universities in the Galapagos and New Orleans. This year, the club is excited to have more members than ever before.

“This is a great group of students that are passionate about plants, the environment and science,” said UF/IFAS environmental horticulture assistant professor Thomas Colquhoun, EHGSA faculty mentor. “Proceeds from the annual sale enable these students to experience different perceptions and cultures centered on plants and plant science, which is incredibly valuable to a developing science mind.”

Caption: Shea Keene, a master’s student working with Thomas Colquhoun, assistant professor of environmental horticulture. UF/IFAS photo

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By: Dana Edwards, 352-392-1963, dana.edwards@ufl.edu

Sources: Tia Tyler, 352-273-2770, ttyler@ufl.edu

Dave Clark, 352-273-4577, geranium@ufl.edu

Thomas Colquhoun, 352-273-4584, ucntcme1@ufl.edu

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.

 

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