Stoke some color into your autumn scenery with gorgeous garden mums. These hardy perennials kick into gear when most of summer’s garden glory has fizzled. Flower numbers, colors and forms make garden mums tough to beat once the calendar flips to fall. You’ll start seeing garden mums for sale in late August. Snap up the colors you like because these plants sell themselves with their fall-themed floral finery.
Many homeowners treat garden mums as an annual, using them to add pops of color in planting beds and containers. For a small investment, you can easily transform your home’s entry with a few garden mums and assorted fall pumpkins and gourds. Add a straw bale or two and you have the makings of an autumn festival—as well as ready-made mulch for your garden.
Garden mums come in a variety of pot sizes, so you can easily find one to fit your needs. Small 4-inch pots slip neatly into window boxes, while larger mum pans (6- or 8-inch shallow pots) can fill an urn with ease. But garden mums are also well-suited for planting beds. You can draft them to replace spent summer annuals, or incorporate them into bed designs as perennials.
Focus on classic fall shades to create a harvest ambience. Hues like orange, burgundy, bronze and purple echo the colors of the season and pair beautifully with pumpkins, winter squash and assorted gourds. You can also mix and match garden mums with flowering cabbage and sweet alyssum, creating beautiful designs by blending leaf and flower colors like an artist.
Garden mums develop flower buds in response to daylength. When nights reach 10 hours in length, plants start to set flower buds. Commercial growers prepare garden mums for sale by covering plants with light excluding black cloth six to 10 weeks before they want them to flower. For garden mums that are established in your landscape as perennials, plants start setting flower buds in response to natural daylength. For best flowering, locate garden mums away from artificial light sources, like patios, streets or driveways.
You’ll also need to prune garden mums through midsummer to encourage them to develop a well-branched form that’s tight and won’t flop when plants are flowering. Start pinching when new growth is 6 inches long. Prune or shear off one inch of the new growth. That causes a garden mum to produce many more shoots—all of which will eventually develop flowers.
Continue to remove an inch of growth each time the new growth, following each pruning, achieves a 6-inch length. Do this until early to late July. Stop pruning sooner in regions where fall frost comes by late September. Alternatively, you can count back 6 to 10 weeks from when you want your garden mums to flower and stop pinching at that point.