Monday, September 9, 2019

Back by popular demand: How to grow mums (if you must.)

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. 

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. Mums in areas that have had excessive rain and heat may bloom later than usual. 

But if you get lucky with Mother Nature,  you should have loads of blooms that will last well into October. 

As for me, I’ll still be enjoying my roses.

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


Note: Your vacation in France will continue next posting! 


Beth at PlantPostings said...

A Chrysanthemum curmudgeon! ;-) I have to admit, they're not my favorites, either, but there are so many colors and varieties now that some please me. I tend to favor the ones that daisies or asters, with large central disks. This is a helpful and fun post. :)

Sunil Patel said...

Hello Lynn, I think we only have one chrysanthemum in the garden, and that's on the patio in a pot. I'm not a big fan of them either. Most of the colours they come in are awful (including the one we have). The only good thing is that they are late flowering, coming into flower when most things have finished - but I can think of other plants that can also do that and look much better. I'm afraid you don't have a fan (or a convert) here :-)

Lynn Hunt said...

Thank you Beth! I love the asters as well and have seen a few mums recently that don't send me screaming into the night. So glad you enjoyed it!

Lynn Hunt said...

I'm with you Sunil!! I think the dainty asters are much prettier - especially the light blues. So excited you are getting ready to work on that big bed I saw when I visited.

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