Mum's the Word: Helping These Fall Blooms Thrive
Chrysanthemums, nicknamed “mums,” rate as one of fall’s quintessential flowers. Available in a dizzying array of colors, shapes and sizes, showy mums can bring plenty of autumn flavor to your garden or home and coordinate with any color scheme.
Here’s how to choose the right mum plant and keep it healthy:
- First, decide when you want to plant. If you’re reading this now and haven’t already gotten started, you’ll probably need to go with a fall planting! Keep in mind that fall-planted mums may not survive the winter since their roots haven’t had a chance to get established, but since mums are relatively inexpensive, you can treat them as annuals and re-plant from year to year.
- Next, choose your variety. Your two basic options are “florist” or “hardy” mums. While both types come from the same original parent mum, they’ve been extensively hybridized over centuries to create many offshoot varieties. Florist mums are meant for cutting blooms, while hardy mums are bred to flourish longer-term in the garden. If you plant a potted florist mum in spring it may thrive while the weather is warm, but won’t survive the winter.
- Caring for your mum depends on whether you want to keep it for a season or for more seasons to come: If you are planting your mum as an annual, all you need to worry about is planting in well-draining soil in a partly-sunny area of your garden. Choose a container or bed that offers plenty of space for the formed root ball. Water well, and continue to water every other day or so, or as much as needed to maintain blooms. If you’re planting mums as perennials, it’s best to start in spring in full sun to give roots a chance to get established. Plant the mums in well-draining soil, making sure to leave 6-12 inches between each plant and water frequently. Before winter, protect the mums by covering plants with several inches of mulch. Wait until the following spring to cut back stems, and fertilize well to encourage blooms. If the mums produce spring blooms, pinch them back before late summer to encourage fall flowering.
When given time and attention, mums can be easy and rewarding to grow.