Breaking Dormancy: Reviving the UIUC Horticulture Club

Written by guest contributor, Joe Ku.

Ever since I was little, the fact that just a handful of seeds could feed a village fascinated me. Gardening (especially with fruits and vegetables) has been a primary interest and passion of mine from middle school and throughout high school. I had my own 800-square-foot garden for about 7 years and volunteered at the United States Botanic Garden for public programs and grounds maintenance during high school summers. As a result, I looked towards schools with plant science programs, specifically those that specialized in horticulture and crop management. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign immediately stood out due to its commitment to developing and implementing innovations in the field of agriculture. This was quite fitting, especially since the school is right at the center of “America’s Breadbasket.” These were only a few of the reasons why I chose to call UIUC my home for the next 4 years.

In my freshman year, I immediately tried to join the UIUC Horticulture Club due to my interest in gardening. However, I was disappointed to find that the club was not very active and, like many organizations, had essentially shut down due to the pandemic. It wasn’t until my HORT 100 professor, Dr. Faber Taylor, mentioned that they were looking to fill the position of secretary that I saw my chance to get involved. Now a sophomore serving as secretary in the Horticulture Club, I noticed that the club had essentially gone dormant, given that, for decades, the club used to hold events that attracted hundreds of visitors (e.g. The Flower Show) and its plant-themed events drew in dozens of community members who participated in events from wreath-making to bonsai to apple cider production.

With the goal of bringing some of these back, I led a horticulture club event showcasing the fascinating diversity of carnivorous plants – one of my favorite groups of plants. Although not many people attended (I believe we had around 8-10 people at that event), I remained hopeful that we could increase engagement by holding plant-themed events such as this – we were the horticulture club, after all. As a junior, I became the club president and decided to add a few more members to the executive board to assist with event planning. That fall, we held some more new events, such as the terrariums lab and orchids lab, both of which saw 20+ attendees. By the start of the spring semester, we were in a position to do even bigger things, so I decided to onboard a few more members to our executive board, most notably a webmaster to handle the management of the club website and an event coordinator to assist with event planning and oversight.

That spring semester marked a significant turning point for our club. We significantly increased the number and scale of our events, and each was met with great success. The carnivorous plants lab, which just a year ago only had 8-10 attendees, now saw a room that could barely accommodate everyone. However, the true marker that the Horticulture club “had broken dormancy” was our first-ever Spring Plant Fair – a spinoff of the famous flower show. After growing around 2,000 plants plus a generous donation from the greenhouse production class (HORT 341), we sold out of nearly all of those plants thanks to the more than 700 visitors who attended. Due to its wild success, we look forward to even bigger and better things for the Horticulture club going into 2024.

Over the past two and a half years, my involvement in the executive board of the Horticulture Club has helped me develop valuable skills in a fun and engaging environment. Organizing a variety of events has enhanced my proficiency in planning, coordination, and team leadership. I’ve learned how to effectively communicate and collaborate with diverse groups of people, from club members to faculty advisors. This experience has been instrumental in shaping my ability to manage projects and lead initiatives, making my time with the Horticulture Club both educational and deeply rewarding.

We hope you connect with us by following our Instagram page (@hortclubuiuc), where we announce all of our events, subscribing to our email list, which can be found at the bottom of our website (, or joining our discord server to engage in some fun plant talk with our amazing horticulture club community (

Hope to see you at some of our events, but until then, keep on growing!

Joe Ku

Horticulture Club President and Head Grower

Crop Sciences Undergraduate Student

Major: Comupter Science + Crop Sciences

P.S. A massive thank you to our faculty co-advisors Dr. Faber Taylor and Dr. McCoy, for their continued support and guidance for the club. This organization could not be what it is now without them.

One thought on “Breaking Dormancy: Reviving the UIUC Horticulture Club

  1. Congratulations to the Hort Club

    As a former club member, it has been disappointing over the years to watch the decline of the horticulture club. We were very active when I was on campus and to see some of these events being reinitiated is exciting.

    Thank you for all the work you are doing getting these things going again. Best of Luck!

    Jim Fizzell
    Class of 1957
    Extension Horticulturist
    1957 to 1989 (Ret)

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