When it comes to holiday plants, each gardener has his or her favorite.
For many area gardeners, the Christmas cactus can't be beat.
"One of my favorite plants is the Christmas cactus," said former Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips. "It is easy to grow and takes very little care."
The Christmas cactus lives a long time and will flower for the better part of the holiday season, Phillips said. The flowers also come in a variety of colors, making them a perennial favorite.
For Ann Blalock, of Harlem, the Christmas cactus is one of her favorite holiday plants because it thrives on neglect.
"I put it out under the trees with a southern exposure in the spring," she said. "I leave it alone and bring it in before the first frost. Shazam! All the little blooms pop out and stay pretty for three to four weeks. What a wonderful surprise. Sometimes they even change color."
Augusta-Richmond County Extension Coordinator Sid Mullis agrees the Christmas cactus is a favorite.
"After those blooms come out, they are so pretty to me," he said. "Many people have trouble getting them to bloom, but there is never any problem if people would leave them outside in the fall, which satisfies a couple of the requirements for them to bloom -- short days, long nights and cool nighttime temperatures, between 50 and 55 degrees."
Although the Christmas cactus is a favorite of many gardeners, not all gardeners say it is their absolute favorite holiday plant. That's the case for Martinez gardener Kris Gordon.
"Amaryllis can't be beat for spectacular bloom for weeks inside," Gordon said. "Then they are easy garden plants, blooming summer after summer with little to no attention."
Ginny Allen finds it hard to pick one favorite.
"My narcissus ... grow outside and bloom in December," the master gardener said. "My poinsettias are my favorites since they stay in bloom in my sunroom until the following summer and often rebloom the following January. I get a new amaryllis each year, then plant it in the yard in the spring."
Allen also offers a few tips to keep holiday plants blooming year after year: "sunlight, regular watering and cool, but not cold temperature helps plants last longer. I use a weak fertilizer solution every time I water," she said.
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