Grow the Best Fall Mums is a how-to in order to get the best out of your Chrysanthemums, including planting, caring and growing.
The above image is a mum plant growing in my back yard. I purchased it because it actually has two different mum plants that were planted and growing in the same pot. That was two years ago, and as you can see, it is very healthy, measuring about three feet across.
Now is the time of year when we start to see chrysanthemums everywhere—in the garden centers, at the grocery store, along roadside stands, on your neighbor’s porch. So maybe it’s time to get your mum fix. You can purchase these striking beauties very inexpensively, and they provide six to eight weeks of blooming color. To me, they are one of the first indications of the changing seasons into fall. After another hot and humid summer, they are a welcome sight.
I have been purchasing mums for many years now, but always in the fall when they are abundant. You will often hear them referred to as “hardy” meaning they are perennials (comes back every year). However, if you want to plant them in your landscape, the time to act is in the spring. When you plant them in the fall in Zone 6, their root system has not fully developed enough to get them through the winter months because they are in the blooming stage. If you plant in the spring, their root system will grow into your landscape, and they should survive with some basic care. If you do plant in the fall, do so as early in the fall as possible in order for the roots to get established.
To protect your fall mums over the winter, leave the dead blooms on the plant. I know this is difficult for some people. You want to tidy up your yard for the long winter months. However, the dead blooms will protect the plant, and it will have a much better chance of survival. A heavy blanket of mulch will also protect their root system. For something unique, plant two different colors of mums in the same hole (as the above image shows.)
If you really cannot throw that mum away after it has bloomed or you found one you are particularly fond of, you can try to overwinter it inside. This works well in a basement, closet or garage if it doesn’t drop below freezing. Water it well, and the plant should go dormant. Do not use a grow light. You want the plant to go dormant. Check on it regularly to make sure the soil does not get completely dry. You will probably need to water about once a month. When you bring the plant out after the last killing frost, slowly expose it to light to prevent shock.
When you plant in the spring, choose an area that is somewhat protected from the wind. This will help your plant survive. If you pinch the tops of the plant off in the spring (removing the stem above the second set of leaves), it encourages a fuller plant. Once you see buds, either in the spring or fall, pinch one-half of the new growth just below the bud. Continue to do this every few weeks, and this should provide you with longer-lasting blooms.
Grow the Best Fall Mums
Planting that barely survived last winter:
When planting your mums, give them as much sun as possible. They will tolerate part shade, but they may grow lanky as they reach for the sun. Fall mums bloom when the days and nights are of equal length which is why they bloom in the fall and sometimes in the spring. If your mum blooms in the spring, deadhead the flowers after they turn brown in order to get another bloom in the fall. By deadheading I mean to pinch off the spent blooms. This can also be done with gardening shears, but be sure to wipe them with disinfectant to prevent transferring disease.
If you are lucky enough to get a very large mum after several years of growth, you may want to divide the plant. This can easily be done with a shovel by cutting it in half. You should backfill the hole with a good-quality soil mixture. Now you have another plant to relocate or give to another mum lover.
Fall is my favorite time of year. Maybe that is one reason why I Grow the Best Fall Mums!
Grow the Best Fall Mums:
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