Monday, October 1, 2012

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.


The Principal Undergardener said...

Lynn, I share your mum antipathy. What most casual gardeners fail to understand is that the mums found in garden centers (and grocery stores and big-box stores) in September and October are greenhouse-grown-and-bred cultivars that have no tolerance for sub-freezing temperatures. They'll croak with the first 28-degree night. I say, why bother?

Les said...

I think the smell is all that I like about them. They remind me of a bunch of useless throw pillows piled on a bed that have to be cleared off before you go to sleep. We are going to steal an idea from the Dallas Arboretum and grow a late crop of big poofy marigolds to plant in the gardens next Sept. They come in fall colors that will last longer than mums. No pinching needed.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

My husband likes mums, I don't really...we have some, but I don't like deadheading them. I DID, but they still bloomed early. They have lots of buds on them again....but one fell open and apart. Will move them next year and IF I get any others, they will be in containers on the porch.

Lynn Hunt said...

Neal, thanks for your insight as far as greenhouse grown cultivars are concerned. I think the same is true with the hydrangeas some of them sell.

Lynn Hunt said...

Les, love the throw pillows! I'll look forward to seeing your photos of the poofy marigolds next year. Sorry I didn't have a chance to stop by Norfolk Botanical Gardens yesterday. It is always a treat to visit.

Lynn Hunt said...

Janet, I think the "enjoy and toss" philosophy is the way ahead. Can't wait to see the gardens at Lewis Ginter before the rose show. Will take lots of photos!

Jason said...

Why do people plant mums when there are asters and goldenrods? OK, and Japanese Anemones.

Lynn Hunt said...

I'm with you, Jason. I love the asters that are dotting my mountain landscape with clouds of blue and lavender.

Randy said...

I guess I’m in the minority here because I absolutely love them. Seeing those huge lines of orange and yellow flowers in stores just remind me of a last hooray for the growing season. Time for the leaves of the trees to follow suite and change to gorgeous colors before everything falls to sleep for the winter. I planted ‘Frosty Jeanette’ in the ground and I always looked forward to the huge clumps of white blooms in late summer and fall. To me they signify a welcome change from a long hard labor of love we perform during the spring and summer. They also invoke in me, the anticipation of cool evenings and the smell of caramel apples! But then again, I never have met a flower I didn’t like. :0)

Lynn Hunt said...

Randy, I am so happy to read about your mums. That's what gardening is all about, isn't it? If we all liked the same thing gardens would be boring.

I adore a single rose called Lyda Rose. The bloom looks a little like an apple blossom and my friends don't get why I love it so, but I do.

Enjoy this special time of year in your garden. (Those caramel apples do smell divine.)

Sue Catmint said...

Hi Lynn, you've started an interesting controversy - I agree with you. Soulless flowers, gaudy, yuk! But very generous of you to provide people who do love them with guidance to grow them. I didn't know they were called Mums?

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi Catmint! My British husband wondered if any readers from abroad might wonder about "mum" since that's the word they usually associate with Mother in the UK. I've heard them called "crysanths" in England, but we generally just say mums.

Hope all is well Down Under!

Peter Floyd said...

good post...

michael said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Juana Wright said...

I would like to share my gardening tips with the world. I am a keen vegetable gardener, let me help you to grow delicious organic tomatoes.

Peter Floyd said...

Best post

Lucy M. Clark said...

In the event that you don't have much space in your garden however need to develop your own particular vegetables, don't stress, numerous vegetables can be effectively developed in compartments. Regardless of whether you have pots or window boxes, you can grow a scope of vegetables from herbs to tomatoes.

Peter Floyd said...

Awesome post

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