Mums the Word:
What you need to know about fall mums
Back are the dog days of summer and it’s time to relax! Don’t forget that your plants get just as thirsty as you do when the suns beating down on you. Make sure you’re regularly watering your plants! Even though summer is in full swing it’s important to remember to think about plants for fall and what will make your flowerbeds the most aesthetic in your neighborhood, leaving your neighbors wondering how you keep your flowers vibrant all-year-round.
For the fall, the only flower you need to worry about is the chrysanthemum, mum for short. Hundreds of hardy cultivars provide an array of colors and bloom shapes, making mums the divas of the autumn garden. The blooms last for weeks, not days, and the sheer number of flowers per plant will convince anyone that this flower really likes to show off. They’re everywhere, from six-inch pots to bushel baskets of orange, yellow and copper mounded behemoths.
All mum plants at garden centers are hardy, meaning that they are perennials in most climates. However, if these plants are put in the ground from September on, most won’t make it through the winter in areas where temperatures dip into the single digits. The reason is that mums planted late in the season are near or at the flowering stage and they don’t grow roots to sustain plants through the winter. All the energy is put into blooming. That is why mums should be planted in the spring and early summer.
If you didn’t plant your mums early enough, over-winter chrysanthemums in the basement or a dark, cold closet. Pot up plants after the first frost if they are in the ground; include as much root system as possible. Water well and place in an area where it is totally dark and 32ºF to 50ºF. The plants will hibernate for the winter if you keep their roots damp. Check pots weekly. In the spring, acclimate plants to light gradually and set them out in the garden after the last killing frost.
When it comes time to plant mums, consider these factors:
Location: They prefer to be planted in an area that receives full sun, but most cultivars can get by with a half day of direct sunshine. Plants that don’t get enough sunlight will be tall and leggy and produce fewer, smaller flowers.
Soil preparation: Mums thrive in well-drained soil. Heavy clay soil should be corrected. For ultimate growth, plant your new fall mums in fertile well- drained soil. Poorly drained soil is the leading cause of winter mortality.
If the soil is too dense, add compost (see June’s blog!) and prepare to a depth of 8-12 inches for best performance. Mature plants can be planted at any desired spacing providing they are planted no closer than just touching their neighbor. Mums’ roots are shallow, and they don’t like competition. Young plants in small containers should be planted 18-24 inches apart. Fall mums in containers need to be planted in the ground before the first hard frost!
Trim off the previous year’s stems as soon as the new spring growth begins to show.
Watering: Water newly planted mums thoroughly, and never let them wilt. After they are established, give mums about an inch of water per week. When bottom leaves look limp or start to turn brown, water more often. Avoid soaking the foliage, which encourages disease.
Fertilizer: Plants set out in spring should get a 5-10-10 fertilizer once or twice a month until cooler weather sets in. Don’t fertilize plants set out in fall as annuals, but plants you hope to overwinter should get high-phosphorus fertilizer to stimulate root growth.
Overwintering: Prepare mums for winter after the first hard frost. Mulch up to 4 inches with straw or shredded hardwood. Fill in around the entire plant, spreading well between branches. Pinch off dead blooms to clean up the plant, but leave branches intact. Mums have a better chance of surviving if you wait to prune old stems until spring. As soon as the weather warms, pull away mulch to allow new shoots to pop up.
Dividing: Mums grown as perennials need to be divided every couple of years. Divide in the spring after the last hard frost and after you see new growth starting. Dig up the plant in one piece and separate outer pieces from the center with a clean sharp spade or large knife. Replant the outer portions into a rejuvenated bed, and discard the original center of the plant.
Pests: You may notice aphids, leafhoppers, or spider mites, but they are not likely to harm the plant.
Link to www.bhg.com with more instructions!
If you think you might need a hand in growing and maintaining your mums let us know, we’d love to help!