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Caring For Mums

Posted on Friday, October 6, 2023
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by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
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Orange Mum plant

A little background first…

Chrysanthemums (mums) are considered a starlet of fall flowers. The plant’s history began many years ago in China, where they were originally cultivated. Fortunately, for us, they were brought to the United States by colonists from Europe. Today, caring for mums is easy! Read on!

Why love mums?

In many countries, chrysanthemums are honored for their superior use as a culinary herb, medicinal remedy, and as a distinguished flower of beauty. In Japan, the flower became popular among nobility and is said to represent longevity.

Mums & connection to grief

Though enjoyed for their beauty, they also became associated with death. For example, In Europe, in places like Italy and France, the long-blooming and splendid flowers are commonly used to decorate graves.

Think happy!  

Lucky for us, in the United States, the flowers are associated with happiness. They appear at events such as homecomings and serve as fall greetings. Due to their showy bouquets, they work well in a variety of displays, from cut corsages to outdoor gardens and window boxes.

Some mum basics:

Before we jump into caring for mums, it’s important to know that there are two basic types:

1) Florist mums

2) Hardy mums

What’s the difference?

The first is an annual and the second is a perennial. Both descend from the plant grown in China. Florist mums, also called pot mums, generally live indoors and flower for about a month. They are often sold as gift plants. Garden mums are longer lasting plants that are typically grown as perennials. They can be used in mass plantings. In today’s market there are many hybrids and cross species. For us, this means that consumers benefit from a variety of plants to choose from.

What’s better?

It depends on your needs, indoor gift vs. outdoor plant. While both are great, between the two varieties, hardy mums can survive the cold better. In fact, they are perennial in hardiness zones 5-9. When buying mums, especially the outdoor variety, look for plants with healthy leaves and bountiful buds that have yet to open. For late fall blooms, choose late fall blooming varieties. Note that mums often have a compacted root ball, so watering the soil is recommended to safely remove the plant from the container.

Caring for mums is quite straightforward. Here are some basics:

  1. Chrysanthemums are generally sun-loving plants. They enjoy about 6 hours of sun or more per day. Watch the changing position of the sun in the fall season to make sure they are in the right spot. However, be sure to watch potted plants in the sun because too much intense heat may cause plants to dry out.
  2. Mums that you wish to permanently grow in your garden as a perennial do best when planted in the spring. This gives them a better chance to get established. However, many times they will succeed when planted in early fall, way in advance of the first frost – at least four to six weeks before the ground freezes.
  3. Mums prefer rich yet well-drained soil. They also can thrive in raised beds filled with garden soil. If the soil doesn’t drain well, consider adding compost or relocating plants to a better spot. Remember that well-drained soil helps to prevent rot.
  4. Mums like a good layer of mulch around them. It is considered Mother Nature’s blanket. It provides insulation and protection for the plant through the winter months.
  5. Pruning mums early in the season is optimal to help them to bloom. They can be pruned with a sharp pair of scissors. For those who live in the south, pruning when needed can enhance your plant’s ability to produce new buds throughout the year.
  6. Mums benefit from deadheading. This means removing dried and finished flower heads to let the buds underneath reach the plants surface and open. (For fall mums purchased in September or October, this encourages prolific ongoing autumnal blooms.)
  7. The roots of mums are shallow, and they do not like weeds as neighbors. Thus, it’s important to keep your garden bed free of these pesky competitors.
  8. Mums also need adequate watering. They initially require decent watering after being repotted and watering every other day thereafter. Try to avoid letting the plants dry out completely before rewatering.
  9. In the Spring, mums will likely benefit from organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. This helps them when they are starting to grow leaves and branches. In the autumn, fall mums can benefit from high-phosphorus fertilizers that promote root development. However, because there are different types of fertilizers, as well as different types of mums, and plant needs may vary, do see your garden expert for feeding advice.

Create a dazzling garden!

Mums are vibrant gifts and spectacular eye-catching additions to the garden. They are also wonderful choices for autumn planters, window boxes, and serve well in potted plant and other arrangements. Caring for mums is not difficult. In fact, these plants are beloved by many for their ease in growing and for the high impact they make on garden landscapes and beyond. For more information on mums, enjoy our sister article, How to decorate with mums

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