APPLING — Judy Sanderlin doesn’t care how her customers pronounce the name of her favorite holiday plant.
“Some people say poinsettia,” she said, “but here in the South I think you will most often hear poinsetta.”
Sanderlin and her family operate Sanderlin Green Houses, which is in its 41st year of cultivating the deep red shrub that fills 10 of the nursery’s 38 buildings.
“This year we’re growing about 5,000 plants,” she said. “We buy the rooted cuttings from a licensed grower and started potting them the first week in August.”
Almost four months later, the showy plants, including a new variegated variety called “Glitter,” are ready for sale.
“People seem interested already, so we are very optimistic that it will be a good season,” she said.
Some of the nursery’s production goes to wholesalers or schools that sell the plants as fundraisers, but there are also plenty of retail customers who return year after year.
“We have people who come from as far away as Atlanta,” she said. “We also have people from Florida who stop by for plants on their way to see relatives in North Carolina, and then they stop by again to get more plants to take back to Florida.”
Poinsettias can be found in more than 100 varieties that account for about $220 million in annual sales in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The plant’s history is as colorful as its deep red bracts, or modified leaves, that poinsettia fans sometimes mistake for actual flowers.
The plant’s namesake, Joel Robert Poinsett, introduced it to the U.S. in 1825 after noticing it in its native southern Mexico while he served as the first U.S. ambassador to that nation.
According to a fact sheet prepared by the University of Illinois, the first person to sell the poinsettia under its botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, was John Bartram, whose son William famously traveled the Southeast and studied its plants and wildlife.
The Sanderlin nursery on Scotts Ferry Road is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.