Image courtesy of Kim Visokey
Give yourself the gift of endless bouquets by adding button mums to your garden roster. These tough little plants blend beauty and character in a floral package that’s hard to resist. A cousin to garden mums, button mums open smaller flowers that are immensely popular in fresh arrangements. If you like to gather garden bouquets, you definitely want to consider tucking button mums into your yard.
Button mums are a type of hardy mum, falling into the chrysanthemum class known as the pompons. This describes the flowers of button mum, with their tightly packed petals that create miniature pompon- or button-like blooms.
Botanically, button mums are under the name Chrysanthemum x morifolium. They survive winter cold and summer heat in Zones 5 to 9. Plant size varies, but generally button mums grow in small to medium mounds, from 8 to 16 inches high. Stems offer a nice length for using in bouquets. You can snip side shoots or harvest entire sprays.
In the garden, space button mums about 16 inches apart. You probably won’t need to stake shorter varieties of these hardy mums, unless you’re gardening in an area subject to frequent or strong winds. For taller types (over 12 inches), have stakes ready to slip into soil. Once button mum plants form flowers, stems can become top-heavy, and staking can help plants sail through summer storms without damage.
As with all mums, focus on giving plants plenty of sun (all day is great) and well-drained soil. Most garden mums, including the cutting types, actually fare best in raised beds. The soil in these beds drains well in every season, including winter. Many garden mums fail in winter due to poorly draining soil, so raised beds can help address that problem.
Provide soil that’s rich in organic matter. Button mums, like all garden mums, are heavy feeders and benefit from the nutritional boost that organic matter can give. Once button mums are actively growing, fertilize them twice a month. Use a fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen and potassium until about August 1. At that point, switch to a fertilizer that doesn’t contain any nitrogen.
Look for button mums in a variety of colors. Gold, purple and pink are favorite shades, although chartreuse-green is probably the most ordered hue in florist shops. This color of button mum blends artfully with other flowers. It adds enough contrast to sizzle alongside bolder hued blooms, but also looks stunning paired with pastel shades.
Button mums are relatively pest-free in the garden, and deer tend to leave them alone. Take precautions when plants are young to protect them from nibbling bunnies. If aphids appear on plants in spring or fall, remove them from stems with a gentle spray of water. Keep an eye out for earwigs on flower buds as they start to form. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth or crushed eggshells around the base of plants to deter these munchers.