State's largest poinsettia producer working around the clock - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State's largest poinsettia producer working around the clock

December 1, 2005

Douglas- It's a virtual sea of red.

"We have 20 acres of greenhouses over here in Douglas and twenty acres worth of poinsettias," says Sunbelt Greenhouses general manager Kevin Koeppler.

By the time the season is over, Sunbelt Greenhouses in Douglas will have shipped out nearly 200 semi truckloads of poinsettias across the southeast.

"We grow approximately 400,000 poinsettias, so we've got 400,000 poinsettias that have got to be shipped in four weeks, so we are literally from 8 o'clock in the morning to midnight shipping these out of here. It's ten to twelve semis a day, everyday, except Sunday, we take that day off," Koeppler says.

Creating a quality product is no small feat. General Manager Kevin Koeppler say he relies on lots of sunlight and special devices to keep the temperature inside Sunbelt's greenhouses at about 72 degrees.

"That gives the intensity of the color. We can produce the plant early on, grow it, but at the end of the crop cycle you want nice cool weather, and we're getting the best weather this year."

At Sunbelt they're not only experts at growing the red and white poinsettias that you're used to seeing around the holiday season, they have different varieties.

"They're genetically engineered. They really came in the marketplace the last ten to fifteen years," Koeppler explains.

Some of the unusual varieties include Winter Rose, the Monet, Cortez Burgundy, and the Strawberries and Cream whose leaves are shaped like holly.

You can find Sunbelt products at dozens of florists, nurseries, and garden centers.

"And also in the last few years one thing that's been really instrumental in our sales is fundraisers, churches and civic clubs, my daughter's Key Club is selling poinsettias this year."

You'd think being around all these poinsettias would be enough to get anyone in the Christmas spirit, but Koeppler says his staff is way to busy to think about Santa Claus coming to town.

"When they're all gone and the greenhouses are empty around December 15th, and we all say to ourselves, 'hey we had a good season,' then we get in the Christmas spirit. Right now we're just trying to get our production out the door."

And the sooner they get them out, the sooner you can use them to deck your halls and add a little holiday cheer to your home.

Koeppler says contrary to what many people believe, poinsettias are not poisonous. He says they do secrete a white latex, but it's not poisonous to people or pets.

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