Mum's the Word

SEP 02
2013

The fall season is reminiscent of certain traditional staples; apple cider, pumpkin patches, raking leaves, football games, sweater weather, and of course, mums. While cool-season months are their time to shine, summertime is when we have chrysanthemums on the brain. You might not think to look at them, but a lot of diligent care and old fashioned gardener patience go into bringing you bright, bushy, compact, and colorful mums. Let me tell you their story:

In mid-June mum plugs, or small-sized seedlings, arrive and are immediately watered. Within days, the plugs are potted in containers of soil and fertilizer. Labels are inserted so that you know what variety, color, and bloom time your mum will be. A slow release, granular fertilizer is then added around the edges of each pot. The mums are placed in full sun, to soak up the summer rays that encourage growth. With daily water and weekly liquid feed, these once little plants start to take off. After about two weeks of being potted, all the mums are cut back halfway. This process, known as pinching, encourages the tight, dense, mounded shape we have come to expect from mums. In the last week of July, another fertilizer application is added. By mid-August, buds are noticeable and they are finally ready for sale!

We grow mums with your gardens in mind. We have a selection of colors in three different bloom-time options: Early varieties usually bloom in late August, mid-season bloomers show color in mid to late September and late varieties begin mid to late October. If you purchase mums from all three bloom periods, it will prolong your garden's display of fall color. Like everything in the garden, it is not a perfect science; blooms times are dependent on weather - too much heat will delay blooming. Have fun with color. We grow purples, whites, yellows, pinks, reds and oranges; some shades are perfect for supporting another fall-season love, the Redskins!

Will mums come back next year? It's a question many people ask, and the short answer is yes and no. Mums are considered perennials, but because they are labor intensive and quite finicky, it is best to consider them annuals and plant new ones each fall. If they are planted too late in the season, mums will not have time to root well and could heave out of the ground with a freeze. If the planting area is too wet in the winter, the root-ball will rot. If, however, the conditions are ideal and your goal is to have your mums return next year, a bit of effort is required:

  • Plant in an area with excellent drainage
  • Cut back after foliage has died
  • After the ground is frozen, mulch well to protect from freezing
  • Once new growth starts in the spring, cut back any new growth by half every two weeks until early July to encourage a dense, bushy habit. (If you let them go, mums will take on a tall, floppy, leggy look)

For a plant that goes through so much, this fall staple is an inexpensive way to add impact, color, and character to any fall garden bed. Mums are excellent as potted plants, for added texture, pot mums with ornamental cabbage/kale and grasses. In the garden their tight, mounded shape makes them ideal for planting in masses, as a border, or as a colorful compliment to a green backdrop. To enjoy their beauty indoors, cut stems and add to a fall flower arrangement!

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