Caring for Your Mums
PLANT OF THE MONTH
Mums, one of the iconic symbols of fall. They look amazing in your outdoor decor, come in beautiful colors, and will return year after year. Here’s some tips on how to maximize your mum fun!
Growing and Maintaining Your Chrysanthemums
Garden mums provide a tremendous splash of fall color. The name “chrysanthemum” is derived from the Greek chrysos (gold) and anthos (flower). Flower color ranges from pure, clear yellows to gold, orange, bronze, deep red and maroon. White, pink, violet and purple flowers are also available. A full artistic palette of fall colors are available to decorate your landscape. Mums can be planted in mass plantings for an “Oh, WOW!” splash of color, or as individual plants for delightful touches of color around the yard.
The fall flowering garden mum is native to China and is a member of the sunflower family of plants. All chrysanthemums are long night plants (short day), that is, they require long periods of uninterrupted darkness for the flower buds to develop. Garden chrysanthemums have been bred so that they will flower after nights have become long enough.
Mums will grow in most any soil type with good soil structure. Mixing organic matter deeply into the soil before planting is essential to maintaining soil structure for proper root aeration and drainage.
Plant your mums as soon as possible. If planting must be delayed, place the mums in a sunny area and do not allow them to wilt. Do not place them in the house. Stutzmans will have acclimated them to the climate outdoors. If placed indoors, they may begin to lose their acclimation and become less hardy. Space your mum plants 18 to 24 inches apart and plant at the same depth as they were grown in the pot.
Because garden mums are hardier than florist mums, they are often called “hardy mums.” Chrysanthemums have a shallow root system and are especially affected by severe cold, repeated cycles of freezing and thawing, wet heavy soil, and lack of snow cover. Several things can be done to increase the chances that your mums will survive the winter. Stop fertilizing the plants by the end of August to discourage late season growth.
Don’t prune the plants back in fall. Research has found that garden mums survive the winter better if the old foliage is left standing through the winter.
Mulching is the best insurance for overwintering mums. It helps keep the soil uniformly cold after it has become frozen, thus eliminating the alternate freezing-thawing cycle and the resulting soil heaving. Apply 4 to 6 inches of straw, pine needles, or other mulching material in late November or early December when the soil surface freezes. Leaves are less suitable as a mulch because they tend to pack solid when wet.
Mums should be fertilized each spring when the shoots first begin to emerge through the soil. A dry fertilizer, such as Milorganite, should be sprinkled over the soil surface at a rate of 11⁄2 pounds per 100 square feet of bed space. The extra nitrogen in the 1–1–1 ratio is necessary early in the season to support the vegetative growth of the plant. The mums should be fertilized a second time in mid- to late July with a fertilizer at a 1-pound per 100 square foot rate. Pinching off the end (1 inch) of each stem when they are 6 inches tall and again each time the new branches have grown out 6 inches, will produce bushy well-rounded plants. Repeat this procedure until July 4, then let the branches grow out and bloom. If the plants become overcrowded, they should be dug and divided in early spring at the first sign of growth.