Sheri Cox, a regular customer at Ball State’s Rinard Orchid Greenhouse who has been taking part in its annual orchid sale for the past five years, was surprised it was still holding the event this year.

“I was worried that it had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.” Cox said.

While the greenhouse continues to remain closed for in-person visits, it is still conducting its annual orchid sale entirely online — the first time in the sale’s nine-year history that it has taken this form.

“I think having the sale online was a fabulous way to let everyone know although things are different, we can still have events that are fun, from a distance,” Cox said.

Despite its altered format, Erica Forstater, the environmental education program coordinator for the greenhouse, said more than 500 plants have been sold as of Friday.

“The feedback has been entirely positive,” Forstater said. “Our customers enjoy supporting local businesses including the greenhouse.”

This photo shows one of the plants up for sale at Ball State's Rinard Orchid Greenhouse. The greenhouse's annual orchid sale is being held entirely online with curbside pickup for the first time in its nine-year history. Erica Forstater, Photo Provided

In compliance with social distancing guidelines, she said the greenhouse’s staff bring the plants to the backseat or trunk of the customers’ cars with no contact involved.

Normally, the sale only goes on for one day, but due to its online format, the sale was extended to take place over two weeks.

Cheryl LeBlanc, the orchid collection curator at the greenhouse, said the online format did bring with it some of the challenges.

“Our biggest complication has been the lack of space needed to store orders until they’re picked up.” LeBlanc said.

If the sale had taken place in person, she said customers could shop for and pick up their plant and take it home the same day.

“Having the sale spread out over two weeks made that not possible.” LeBlanc said.

Due to the community’s response for the online sale, LeBlanc said the greenhouse intends to have the event take place both online and in person next year, if the regulations allow the greenhouse to do so. She said this will, however, be the only time that products will be available online as it would not be feasible to do this full time.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward funding the greenhouse’s educational programs such as tours of the facility and various events with school groups that wouldn’t be possible without the sale. Due to COVID-19 regulations, these tours have also been made virtual.

According to the greenhouse’s website, the sale will run until Saturday. However, customers are encouraged to place their orders before that day as some items are available in limited quantities. More information about the sale, along with pictures, prices and descriptions are available on the greenhouse’s Facebook page and the greenhouse’s online store.

Contact Jake Merkel with comments at or on Twitter @jakemerkel4.