Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to grow Mums. (If you must.)

Mums have been popular for hundreds of years, but not at my house

I’ve never been much of a chrysanthemum fan. 

For starters, they smell funny.  Many of the colors tend to be gaudy. And the blooms don’t age gracefully.

This time of year I get annoyed when I see hundreds of them lined up in front of roadside stands and garden centers. I know what the mum and pumpkin sightings mean: I am being pushed into fall when I’m not ready to let go of summer.

I  realize that turning up my nose at these harbingers of autumn means I am out of step with much of the gardening world. After all, garden mums (C. x morifolium) have been wildly popular for centuries.  

So despite being a chrysanthemum curmudgeon, I wanted to offer some tips that will enable you to grow these wretched plants to the best of your ability.

From China, with love

Mums were first cultivated in China, possibly as early as the 15th Century B.C. Several species of chrysanthemums native to both China and Japan were used in an extensive hybridizing program that, over time, resulted in the “domesticated” garden mum.   

Mums found their way to Europe in the seventeenth century where the appealing gold flowers received an enthusiastic welcome. Today,  hybridizing continues full speed ahead in the hopes of creating new flower forms and plants that can better tolerate cold. At this time more than 5,000 cultivars have been named. 

Don't want to plant mums? Enjoy them in pots, then discard

Mum care 101                           

 Yoder, one of America’s leading mum breeders, offers the following tips which apply regardless of color, flower form or flowering time:

• Always plant mums in a spot where they will receive at least half a day of sun.  Plant in fer­tile, well-drained soil.  Loosen the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and mix in peat moss or com­post to condition the soil and improve drainage. Measure from the center of the plant and space mums about 15 to 20 inches apart.

• Water thoroughly, adding 1 to 2 gallons of water to the soil around each plant.  When rainfall is scant, continue to water as needed to prevent wilting.  Keep the soil moist as colder weather approaches.

• Never fertilize the flowering garden mums you plant in the fall.  All the season's growing is finished by that time.  Plants will not need fertilizer until next spring.

• Mother Nature doesn't prune back plants as win­ter approaches and you shouldn’t either.  Let the brown foliage stand through the winter.  Mulch plants after the ground begins to freeze - not before - with leaves, straw, peat moss or other organic materials.

• Prune away old stems and gradually remove mulch in the spring. Pinch mums back from June through July 15 to encourage bushy growth and a greater show of fall flowers.  

So there you have it.Everything you need to know to keep your mums thriving from year to year. 

The dry summer in many areas of the country may mean colors will be more vivid this year. With a little luck and a lot of water, you should have loads of blooms that will last well into October.
As for me, I’ll still be enjoying my roses.


Les said...

I'm no fan either, though I do like the strange odor. When I was in retail, I would take the broken ones home (which there were many, so brittle) and push them together on the steps so you couldn't see their broken bits. When the color was gone they became compost, just like poinsettias.

Lynn Hunt said...

Les, I am wondering if there are some new varieties that aren't quite so obnoxious. I will check it out and report back next fall. Till then, the roses are much more impressive.

Sunil Patel said...

Hi Lynn, thanks for the tips, I've not looked at Chrysanthemums as plants for the garden and I'm not sure why, it's probably because it's not a plant that I regularly come across and so it doesn't stay in my mind when I'm mulling over things of a horticultural nature. Given the choice though, I would most likely go for roses.

Lynn Hunt said...

I am with you Sunil. Although I passed tons of mums while driving through South Carolina yesterday, I was not tempted. I did however, buy five new roses!

Mary Preston said...

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who doesn't like mums! I smiled when I saw your title!

Lynn Hunt said...

Welcome to the Mum Masher Club Mary!

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