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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Give mums a chance

Dendranthema 'Cool Igloo'
Mums, they aren't so bad, especially if they have a more natural shape and don't look all poodle cut and perfectly rounded. 

And by mums, I mean Dendranthema, which is the actual genus for mums.  Or maybe they switched back to Chrysanthemum?  It's difficult to keep up with taxonomists sometimes.

Regardless, in the right colors, and not perfectly mounded, mums add some nice color to the fall garden. 

Friends ask me about planting their mums in the garden  to winter over until spring.  Mums will winter over but there are a couple of tips to remember.

First, you should plant the mums as soon as possible, hopefully when they are still just budding out and not in full flower.  Around here that was about a month ago for most mums, if the ones I saw at the local big box hardware store a few days ago are any indication of the condition of the mums for sale now.    But even if my mums were in full flower, I'd still be tempted to plant them out now. What do you have to lose if they don't make it, except a little bit of time?

Next, avoid temptation and don't cut the mums down to the ground once they are done blooming. Leave that foliage standing through the winter.

Once the ground has frozen over, cover the base of the mum with some mulch to prevent it from heaving out of the ground when we go through those freeze-thaw cycles, especially in late winter. Many a gardener has lost her mums when they heaved out of the ground and dried out. If you find your mums out of the ground in late winter, push them back down using the heel of you boot.

Then in the spring when you see some green shoots starting to peak through at the base of the mum, go ahead and cut the dead branches down to the ground and pull the mulch back.   Fertilize the mum when you fertilize other perennials. I try to remember to fertilizer my perennials in early May.   If you want a lot more blooms in the fall, cut the branches back by about one-third around Memorial Day.  This encourages more branching, and thus, more buds.

Many gardeners shun the mums as ordinary and boring. I think they can be quite nice and cannot resist a little plea... all I am saying... is give mums a chance.

8 comments:

Michael said...

Hey Carol,
thanks for all the info, the freeze thaw stuff i don't have to worry about thankfully but i'm now inspired to go out and get some when next i see them :)

happy gardening

Fairegarden said...

The Korean mums, such as the Sheffies, Sheffield Hill Pink are quite hardy and will return well year after year. They are a fabulous apricot color and go perfectly with fall foliage. They are worth seeking out.
Frances

Gail said...

No mums here, but plenty of the native ex-asters. I have limited sunny areas and save them for native plants. I do like Fairegarden's sheffie suggestion. They are beautiful.

Kathy said...

Really, if you want mums to survive the winter, plant them in the spring, and let them take a whole gardening season to settle into the soil. I don't know if garden centers sell them then. I have mostly gotten passalong plants, but I know Bluestone Perennials sells them by mail.

Heidi/Woodland Garden said...

I love fall colors so I love mums, but mine don't seem to survive the winter. Maybe with your tips, I can help them survive. Thanks!

the blonde gardener said...

I have some great mums given to me by an elderly patient of mine. They had been in her garden for many years and mine for at least 15 yrs. They are quite tall and bloom a little later than most, but I always think of her when they bloom. Love passalongs! I did plant those in the spring and I am going to check out the Sheffies, too. So many great mums out there.

Susan said...

I want to plant mums, but I live in France and they're heavily associated with graveyards here. For All Saints Day (Tousaint) you're supposed to buy mums and put them on your deceased family members' headstones. My husband and his family will tease me eternally if I buy them for decoration.

Anonymous said...

For the past few years my mums have bloomed very early, like July, in my central Indiana garden. Not sure why. They also have spread quite a bit. So, while I will not be pulling them out, I have begun to rely on asters for fall blooming. Since the asters are native, I feel they will be easier to predict. The colors are beautiful, although there is not, to my knowledge, the lovely apricot/rust color range available in asters. Right now I have very pretty new england, new york, woods blue, woods purple, sky blue, white and some other unidentified very light pink asters. The butterflies and bees are all over them.