Growing and Caring for Mums
Tips on propagating mums, growing disbuds and sprays, caring for mums in winter and more.
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The colorful domes plentiful at garden centers now are but a small part of the variety found among mums. This family of flowering plants offers a wide array of textures, colors, shapes and sizes. The National Chrysanthemum Society divides mums into 13 classes, including spoon, spider and reflex, to name a few.
Growing Specialty Mums
Mums are shallow rooted and don't like wet feet. Give them a light watering twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. Also give them six hours of sun exposure a day, preferably in the morning.
Disbuds vs. Sprays
Specialty mums require special care and training in order to produce the large, unique flowers. To train your own specialty mum, select a good quality plant from an online specialty mum grower or a local specialty garden center. Pick the three strongest stems and pinch off any shoots and flowers that come off the stems. As the plant grows, remove all the laterals to force all the growth up to the stem tip; the laterals are the branches growing perpendicular to the main stem. As a result, all the energy goes into growing this tall stem and big flower known as a disbud.
If you don't want to go to the trouble of developing disbuds, you can grow sprays instead. Sprays have several flowers per stem, the result of not removing the side shoots and laterals.
Mums come in flower sizes A, B and C, with A being the largest. Each mum has a maximum height, however. So even if you're using disbudding practices, the height will vary from one cultivar to the next.
Many mums are hardy to about 26 degrees F. In late fall to early winter after they've finished blooming, cut plants back to about one foot tall, and they'll stay dormant through the winter months. If you live in a colder climate, you can try covering your mums with straw for added insulation.
Growing Mums From Cuttings
To propagate your own mums, take stem-tip cuttings from a new plant around the first of April. Make sure to get at least three sets of leaves on each cutting and remove the lower leaves, leaving the leaves at the tip intact. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone. Place the cuttings in potting media; you can use playground sand for drainage. Set the cuttings in filtered sun and water them twice a day, keeping the soil moist. After three weeks, they should be ready to pot up.
Transplant the rooted cuttings into four-inch pots. Place them in a protected location with filtered sun; this helps them to acclimate to their new location. Gradually move them out to a sunny location. The cuttings will stay in the four-inch pots for another 30 days. Then you can either pot them up to two-gallon pots or transplant them directly into the garden. Use gardener's tape to train the plants to grow upright.
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