When the crisp morning air of Fall finally arrives here in the south, it’s hard not to regret the passing of all the summer blooms we love so much. From dahlias to daisies, zinnias, asters, coreopsis, and calendulas, there are so many friends we must bid adieu when the leaves being to fall each year.
Fortunately, the fall season offers gardeners, homeowners, and season decorators of all walks of like one of mother nature’s must beautiful and affordable season varieties, the chrysanthemum. This diva of the Fall, full of blooms in a myriad of hues, makes up for all that summer gardeners can desire. Best of all, with the mum’s lasting longevity, you’ll have a plant that pulls not only its weight in the garden each year, but for many seasons to come. Maintained well these perennials will leave your landscaping beautiful for seasons to come!
With the Autumn season in full swing, and so many varieties deeply discounted now in-store, here are a few tips for those looking to get started caring for their mums this year to help you make the most of your next mum purchase, before heading out to your local nursery:
Buy begging in September: Generally speaking, it’s best to buy mums as soon as night temps drop into the fifties, by mid-September. This is, of course, the rule unless you live below the Mason-Dixon line, in which case Back-to-School sales also signal the time to buy mums! Though buying later in the season might mean less brilliant blooms this current year, larger, less expensive plants will yield greater blooms in the seasons to come!
Buy for your zone: So, you may be thinking, which plants to buy? The answer is simple. Buy the colors and varieties best zoned for your area, with the only overall area of caution is to buy plants only as they start to break bud. You’ll maximize bloom time. Another trick, to make sure you are buying the right color and variety, be sure to match the blooms-to-tags, to find the color and type of flower you’re after. Always check plant tags with their handy cross-referenced blooms to avoid stock and shock error; garden centers usually group like selections together, but errors can happen.
Opt for darker shades: You will stretch your saving-saving dollar by choosing darker shades, such as bronze and burgundy as spent. As wilted flowers are less noticeable. The same is true for mums with double, as opposed to single, daisy-like blooms, especially for yellow and white varieties. Meaning, you won’t have to replace pots mid-season in porchscapes or vignettes.
Go large: Like hair, lattes, homecoming flats, when it comes to mums, bigger is better! Inevitably, what you see in-store, is what you will get for the rest of the growing season. So, to ensure your displays are top notch, buy the bigger plant.
Look for buds: When it comes to buying mums, buy plants that are already blooming. Some plants, due to the shock of being transported through different climate zones, will not produce any more additional blooms in their current growing season but in the next. However, once buds start to open on mums, you’re pretty-much-guaranteed flowers―no matter where you display them. And once your growing season is done, from December-August, make sure to pluck any premature blooms. Budding blooms left unchecked will signal for the plant to germinate early and you could potentially lose their highly sought after fall color.
Opt for moist soil: Your mum’s soil must stay be moist but never sopping wet. Check daily while the current seasonal weather is warm, especially in the deep south, and then every other day when it’s cooler. If plants dry out, submerge in a bucket of water, or jab a sharp pencil into the soil several times and then water.
Compost is king: Fertilizing is not necessary for mums; though compost can be applied post-growing season, every other year. Looking for tips on what to compost, check out my post on 101 everyday household items you can compost this season!
Pluck before you water: Always remove faded mum blooms and dead leaves before watering. This will encourage a more diverse water and nutrient absorption in your mums.
Plant over in December: Right before the winter solstice is the time for mums to go in-ground. Always be sure to cover with mulch or comport over winter and then remove this covering from the tops of plants through summer. Always remembering to place new compost and mulch around the base of the plant each Spring to help protect it from the summer’s harsh rays!
Sunshine is key: Chrysanthemums grow best and produce the most vibrant array of flowers if they are planted in full sunshine. P and plant your fall and winter beds accordingly to allow for optimal growth during the Spring and Summer months the following year.
Be sure to recap:
- There are hundreds of varieties of Chrysanthemums, giving you a multitude of options for height, color, flower size and time of bloom.
- If you live above the Mason-Dixon line, purchase the earlier bloomers.
- Mums can be started as seeds, from cuttings and dividing, or can be purchased at a nursery in sizes from bedding plants up to gallon size and larger plants.
- They should be planted into well-prepared, fertile, sandy soil.
By Thanksgiving, pluck all of your mum blossoms off of your plants, so that they can start their natural dormancy stage this winter.
- Water mums weekly, fertilize monthly with liquid plant food.
- At the end of the season, generally, post-Thanksgiving, cut back plants to four inches, and re-mulch your beds a second time, to prevent winter frost.
So, those are my tips for growing mums. If you have any mum care tips, pictures, or advice, shoot me an email or leave me a message and I’d love to feature you next week on my weekly gardening post. Now if you have any mum growing tips or tricks on finding the best pricing on mums in your neck of the woods, I’d love to hear about it below!