Lawn & Garden
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Nature’s transition to fall colors is truly breathtaking. One of the most mesmerizing fall colored plants is the chrysanthemum, or mum. Arguably the favorite of all fall flowers, mums come in a wide variety of colors and bloom variations.
When choosing a mum from the store, more goes into it besides choosing your favorite color. Timing and temperature both play a role in the longevity of the mum’s blooms. For long lasting mums this fall, Alabama Extension regional agent Mallory Kelley has the tips and tricks for all things mums.
“To care for a mum in hopes that it will bloom again next year requires preparation and special care,” Kelley said.
At the store, it may be tempting to purchase the mum that is already in full bloom. However, for longevity, purchase those with most of the buds still tightly closed and only a few blooms open. This will ensure the longest possible bloom period.
The warmer the temperatures are, the quicker the buds will open, resulting in a shorter bloom period. Therefore, waiting to purchase until temperatures begin to drop will prolong the bloom time. As the temperatures drop, this will also decrease their need for water and result in less stress on the plant.
While many prefer to keep their mums potted on the front steps, planting mums is an alternative. To make sure they last more than one season, they will need to be planted immediately. The sooner they are planted, the better established their roots will be before winter.
Begin by planting the mums in well-drained soil where they will receive at least six hours of sunshine a day. Plant the mum at the same depth of the pot they came in.
Water is critical to the growth and survival of mums. “They usually get too dry in the containers on the front porch, especially since October is one of the driest months of the year,” Kelley said.
Mums will be damaged if they are allowed to dry out. Kelley recommends to regularly apply sufficient water to a depth of about four to six inches below the soil.
“It is best to water during the day so the foliage will have time to dry off before nightfall,” Kelley said. “Moisture left on foliage can cause diseases.”
For mums that are planted, placing mulch around the mums will help to hold moisture in the ground as well as protect the plant and its roots throughout the winter.
Post Bloom Care
After the beautiful fall mums have run their course, they will still require plenty of tender loving care to bloom again next season.
First, remove all dead blooms once the mum has finished blooming. Even after removing dead blooms it is best to leave the foliage to help the plant survive the winter.
Second, make sure the soil is very moist before the first hard freeze. “Apply several inches of mulch, such as straw or leaves, around the roots to protect the plant through the winter months,” Kelley said.
Lastly, in the late winter or early spring, remove the previous year’s plant material and the mulch applied for winter. Then in early summer, cut them back again as needed for reshaping or for more compact growth.
Enjoy the beautiful fall colored mums this season and for many more to come.
For more information on chrysanthemums and fall flowers, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu. Also, for garden or plant inquiries, contact the toll-free Master Gardener Helpline at 1-877-ALA-GROW.