Len Busch Roses Produces 115,000 Holiday Poinsettias
In a nondescript greenhouse near the western edge of Plymouth, you’ll find Nikole Michaealson hard at work.
“I like that I’m always moving. I’m not someone who can just sit at a desk all day,” said Michaelson, a greenhouse technician at Len Busch Roses.
Michaelson and several other employees at Len Busch Roses have an important job.
“They have these pots that go around and they have plugs, and we put them in the middle of the pot,” she said.
The plants may not look like much now, but by Thanksgiving, they’ll bring the Christmas spirit to thousands of homes and businesses.
“Today you got to see us planting our 2019 poinsettia crop,” said Sara Bacon, the production crop planner, back in July. “The crew on the robot is planting stuff that will be ready right in time for Thanksgiving.”
Preparation for the 2019 crop began immediately after last Christmas.
“How much we’re gonna grow, when we’re gonna grow it, what colors,” Bacon said. “And then the material is ordered so that we can start planting them here in June, July, actually through September.”
On a day when CCX News visited in July, the crew working the assembly line planted about 500 poinsettias.
“Today is the first time I’ve done the poinsettias on the robot,” Michaelson said. “But last year we did it all by hand.”
Thankfully, the workers now have a machine to help with the process.
Immediately after Michaelson and her coworkers place the plants in their pots, the poinsettias go into large trays. Next, a machine douses the poinsettias with water before they’re moved to a different part of the greenhouse; and that’s where they’ll stay for the next few months.
“Poinsettias want to be about 20 inches tall, 18 inches tall,” Bacon said. “So they have a ways to go.”
Once it’s all said and done, Len Busch Roses will produce 115,000 poinsettias this year.
“That’s a lot of plants,” Michaelson said.
Plants that will eventually play a big role in spreading holiday cheer.
Michaelson is happy to play her part.
“How do you think these things are grown and done? Cause they can’t just be grown outside by themselves,” she said.
Checking Back in Mid-October
The holiday season traditionally kicks off in late November, but in a Plymouth warehouse in mid-October, Thanksgiving and Christmas have been on their minds for months.
“Roughly, yeah,” said Mandy Bergin of Len Busch Roses.
Bergin was busy getting poinsettias ready for the next step in their growth process.
“Right now, what we’re doing is we’re kind of taking the tallest plant down to the smallest one, and then we put on these little cages to help them grow a little bit bigger than what they are now,” Bergin said.
Once the plants get their cages, they’re placed on a conveyor belt. Then, a mechanical arm puts them on a large tray that spaces them out to precise specifications.
With Thanksgiving less than two months away, it’s a task that takes up a lot of Bergin’s time.
“A lot,” she said with a laugh. I don’t know exactly how many we’ve done so far, but I know we’ve done a lot.”
When she says “a lot,” it’s something you have to see to believe.
Much of the joy that comes from the holidays is derived from the colorful decorations of the season, and poinsettias make up a big part of that.
But getting to that point requires months of tender loving care before they hit store shelves.
“We measure them every week, so we know the growth rate and whether they need to be slowed down or picked up,” said Becky Spagenske, a plant technician.
“There’s a lot of math involved, not just in the spacing, but the timing of the decisions, the decision to spray if needed” Bacon added. “Also, when these plants move from where they were in the light to out here in the dark.”
Many of the poinsettias were first planted in July, and as long as the technicians give them enough room to grow and provide them with the proper attention, they’ll soon turn the familiar shade of red.
By mid-November, the plants will be ready for the next step of their journey.
“On average, 26 weeks we look at these, so when it comes time to start painting, sparkling, harvesting, it’s kind of like, time to go,” Bacon said with a chuckle.
Ready for the Thanksgiving Harvest
On a day when Minnesota was a much warmer place were just a few inches tall.
Nikole Michaelson took special care to ensure she placed the poinsettias into their pots just the right way.
“Once [the machine] gets too fast, we get sloppy,” said Michaelson. “And we want them to grow straight up.”
Fast forward to November, and it’s evident that all her hard work paid off.
“Yeah we started them in the summer, and now it’s November and they’re finally ready to be harvested and everything,” Michaelson said.
A few days before Thanksgiving, thousands of fully-grown poinsettias filled the greenhouses at Len Busch Roses, receiving just enough water — thanks to an elaborate irrigation system — as they await their next destination.
“Since you were here last, they have finished expanding, growing in size and in height,” Bacon said. “You can see that they’re all pretty much ready to ship now.”
By Christmas Eve, they’ll ship out 115,000 of the festive plants to businesses in the five-state area.
“The poinsettia crop is actually very important to us,” Bacon said. “It’s the largest single crop that we do at the end of the year.”
Many of the plants go out looking as natural as can be, but then there are the clients who want a poinsettia with a little more pizzazz.
About ten percent of the crop gets a coating of fresh paint and glitter to give it a more festive feel.
The finished product looks like something out of a fantasy-land.
“Over the weekend all of that stuff that is painted will be gone,” Bacon said.
In the end, these little plants will go a long way to making people’s days merry and bright.
And it all started inside a greenhouse in Plymouth.
“Yeah it’s amazing what they come out to look like,” Michaelson said. “Some are so big. Some are small. Flowers are amazing.”
Meanwhile, if you want to take care of a poinsettia, Bacon offered these tips:
- You want to put it in a place that’s bright, with direct light, but not necessarily in your window where it may be cold.
- Make sure that the temperature is good, 68-70 degrees, no lower than 62.
- For watering, make sure you pick up the plant and feel how heavy it is. That will tell you if it needs water. If you pick it up and it feels light, you need to add water. If you pick it up and it still feels heavy, wait another day or two and check it again. On average, it depends on the size of the pot, but your average six-inch poinsettia could use water every three to four days.