As if to herald the arrival of Fall, chrysanthemums (better known as “mums”) produce that last bit of color in many of our gardens. After the summer has taken its toll on the rest of the garden, mums provide a new display of color and greenery. Mums grow best in planting zones 3- 9 (see the USDA planting zone chart of the United States at http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html). If you would like to create a perennial mum garden, keep in mind the following information and tips.
• Although you can plant mums in the Fall, ideally they should be planted during Spring. If planted in the Fall, you run the risk of an early freeze destroying the plant before it has time to establish itself. If you have a mild or late winter, you may have success with planting mums in the fall.
• If you plant mums in the Spring, they should be cut back to around 6 to 9 inches tall once they’ve grown to at least 12 to 18 inches. By doing this, you will force the plant to grow with a bushy appearance that produces more blooms.
• When Fall arrives and you see your mums starting to grow, use a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorous which will help promote blooming and the overall health of the plant.
• Mums prefer full, hot sun, but are still hardy and can grow in other areas.
• Make sure you plant mums in well-drained soil as they have a very shallow root system. Mums also thrive with the use of compost.
• Depending on the growth of your mums, typically every third Spring is when you’ll need to divide them. Doing so will help them to remain healthy and strong.
Other Information About Mums
• Mums that most of us purchase in the Fall are usually of the “decorative” type distinguished by long and large petals. In fact, you almost can’t see the center of the plant.
• Mums are subject to very few disease problems which contribute to their popularity and selection for gardens.
• If you cut stems from your mums to take indoors be sure and check for insects which nest in the leaves. If you do have insects, use an insecticidal soap to treat mums.
• Mums are considered photoperiodic which means their blooming is directly related to shorter days and longer nights. As such, you shouldn’t plant mums near street or security lights which can “confuse” the mums growth cycle.
• Remember to give mums plenty of room in the garden. Most plants benefit from better air circulation which may also preclude some diseases.
Sources: www.gardenersnet.com/flower/mums.htm, http://landscapiing.about.com/od/landscapecolor/p/chrysanthemums.htm, Personal Experience