URI Master Gardeners brighten RI nursing homes, long term care facilities with poinsettias

The University of Rhode Island’s Master Gardeners donated more than 650 poinsettias to retirement communities throughout Rhode Island, including the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol, the Little Sisters of the Poor in Pawtucket, and several nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

The plants were grown by the Master Gardeners as part of the North American Poinsettia Trials, an annual research program that contributes data to help commercial poinsettia growers learn about the growth stages, leaf structure, colors and blooms of a wide range of poinsettia varieties. In addition to traditional red plants, the donated poinsettias include rare pink, variegated, yellow, white and other varieties.

“Our ability to participate in propagation trials all these years has been a win-win for the commercial poinsettia growers and our plant-loving URI Master Gardener volunteers,” said Kate Venturini, URI Master Gardener program administrator. “And this year, our ability to spread some colorful cheer during this dark time is icing on the cake.”

The poinsettia trials begin each year in July when plugs arrive from three poinsettia breeders and are started in the Master Gardener greenhouses at URI’s East Farm. This year, despite COVID-19 restrictions, more than 50 Master Gardeners tended the plants throughout the growing season.

A total of 1,400 poinsettias were grown in 2020, and about half were sold to URI faculty and staff to support Master Gardener educational programs. The remainder are being donated.

“I just know these plants will lift the spirits of our residents during this difficult time,” said Sister Mary Vincent, collecting sister at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Among the other facilities receiving donated poinsettias are Brightview Commons and Brookdale South Bay in South Kingstown, the Village at Waterman Lake in Smithfield, South County Hospital, and the South Kingstown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.