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What's Up Magazine

Autumn Glory

Oct 10, 2012 05:59PM ● By Anonymous


Want to pack a punch of color in your garden? Then plant Chrysanthemums (mums). They are easy to grow, very hardy, and with proper care, they come back every year. Because of their tight-mounded appearance, mums look great planted en masse. You can create a patchwork effect by planting or grouping different colors of mums, or plant a monochromatic array and let one color dominate.

While hardy mums usually come back every fall, there are some mums known as florist’s mums that can be planted, but may not survive the winter. If you want to plant mums as perennials in your garden and have them year after year, make sure they are, in fact, garden or hardy mums.

“Hardy mums get their name because they are easy to grow,” explains one local garden expert. “Like other plants, they reward you if placed in the best location [full to partial sun and good, well drained soil] of your garden. But, they also thrive well in less than ideal conditions.”

However, warns another local expert, sometimes, even hardy garden mums may not return the next year. “Since they are usually planted late in the season and in a blooming state, it’s harder for them to root out and get established before winter,” she says.

Myriad Mums

According to the National Chrysanthemum Society (NCS), mums were first cultivated in China as a flowering herb in the 15th century. Their roots were boiled and used as a headache remedy and their sprouts and flowers were used in salads. Mums were introduced into the western world in the 17th century and in the United States during colonial times.

Mums come in an array of bloom forms— such as daisy, pompoms, spoon form, and decorative. In fact, there are so many types of chrysanthemums that a system of classification is used to categorize and identify them. According to the NCS, classification is based on the type of florets and their growth pattern.

Appearing as a single flower, the head of a mum is actually made up of hundreds of flowers called florets. There are two kinds of florets in a single bloom, disk florets and ray florets. For example, on a daisy chrysanthemum the outer parts are ray florets and the center of the flower are made up of disk florets. For ease of identification the NCS divides bloom forms into 13 classes.

In our region Belgian mums are a local favorite because they require no pinching or staking and come in varieties that are early, mid-season, and late-fall blooming. They provide gardeners with an extra long season of blooming, if a gardener carefully includes early-, mid-, and late-season bloomers in their flower beds.

There are more than 20 selections of Belgian mums grown in the United States.

“Mums from Minnesota” are another local favorite, with very cold-hardy blooms that have unusual shapes—spoontips, anemone, and spider. These types of mums are the old-fashioned varieties that have been grown since the 1930s. “They do not have the nice, ball-shaped habit of today’s newly-bred garden mums,” says one garden center expert, “but a taller, more spreading habit.”

No matter what variety of mums, remember to select early-, mid-, and late-season mums for brilliant garden color from late August through Thanksgiving.

Planting and Care

Ready to plant your mums? Select a spot that gets at least six hours of sun daily. If you plant them in an area that gets less sun, the mums will actually produce smaller flowers and become tall and leggy in appearance.

Mums thrive in well-drained soil, so if you have a heavy clay soil, you will have to amend the soil by adding organic compost and then planting. Dig a hole not much deeper than the pot the mums came in, and then loosen the outer roots to ensure root growth. Plant and cover with amended soil, and then mulch the area (about four inches deep) to protect the roots in the winter. Water plants daily until established— but be careful not to overwater. After established, keep them well watered near the surface as they have shallow roots.

Provide mums with fertilizer once a month until winter arrives.

After they are finished blooming in the fall, prune your mums dramatically. Cut them back down to the dirt, the lower the better. Following winter, clear old stems and mulch to make way for new sprouts.

Often you may notice the centers of mum plants may start to die after about three years. In order to combat the problem, dig up your mums in the spring as soon as new growth appears. Divide and replant the outside parts, and throw away the center portion.

Mums create a huge impact of color when displayed and planted together. This fall, when you purchase your garden mums, arrange them atop hay bales, in groupings with gourds or alone on an outdoor tabletop. Then plant them before the first frost appears and enjoy them for years to come.