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The Basics of Fall Mums

With fall in the air, you might find yourself becoming nostalgic for the color of your summer garden. A great way to extend the beauty of your garden well into autumn is to plant chrysanthemums, or "Garden Mums." With their tightly packed, colorful blooms, the flowers last for weeks, not days, and the sheer number of buds per plant will convince anyone that this flower is a real autumn star!

Chrysanthemums come in a rainbow of color choices. From russet reds to golds and yellows, lavender and purple, peach and pink, green, white and more! Mums make the biggest statement when planted in masses. This gives their tight, mounded habit and stunning bloom cover a chance to shine at full speed. Choose colors that coordinate with your existing garden. Yellows, reds and oranges will enhance your fall decor of pumpkins and gourds, while lavenders, pinks and bold reds will stand out nicely against a background of evergreens.

Chrysanthemums also excel in decorative containers. Whether as a single planting or mixed with other fall plants like grasses, flowering cabbage and pansies, mums can add the perfect pop of color to your container garden. If you're looking for a quick splash of color or a fixture for your border, choose mums for a fabulous fall display.

The mums we grow here at Gulley Greenhouse are perennial chrysanthemums, meaning they will come back from the same roots each year. While some gardeners choose to use mums as annuals, more of a patio/front porch accent than an element in the garden, mums can be planted in the ground and successfully over-wintered. Remember, mums won't survive over the winter if left in containers. Plant your mum into the garden by early October and use a root stimulator, which will help get the roots of the plant established before the ground freezes.

You may notice a plastic webbing right under the bloom cover on the mums that you purchase at Gulley Greenhouse. This is a net that we put onto our mums while they are still young so that they are able to hold their beautiful round shape, even after the blooms get top heavy. Once your mum is finished blooming, simply pinch down to this net and remove it.

When choosing to plant mums, consider these factors:

Location: Choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Plants that don't get enough sunlight will be tall and leggy and produce fewer, smaller flowers. If you only plan on using your mum for a burst of color on your front porch, the sun exposure doesn't matter as much. However, if you are going to plant it into the ground, they really do like full sun.

Soil preparation: Garden mums thrive in well-drained soil. Heavy clay soil should be amended with a product such as Soil Pep. If the soil is too dense, add compost and prepare to a depth of 8-12 inches for best performance. Mums' roots are shallow, and they don't like competition. Plant them about 1 inch deeper than they were in the nursery pot, being careful with the roots as you spread them.

Watering: Water new plants thoroughly, and take care not to let them wilt. When bottom leaves look wilted or start to turn brown, water more often. Avoid soaking the foliage, which encourages disease and will cause the flowers to brown. If your mum gets too dry, it can lose its beautiful round shape, so be careful not to underwater.

Fertilizer: Plants you intend to overwinter should get Root Stimulator at planting and one more application 2 weeks later to encourage maximum root growth before winter.

Overwintering: Prepare mums for winter after the first hard frost. Mulch up to 4 inches with straw or mulch. Fill in around the entire plant, spreading well between branches. Pinch off dead blooms to clean up the plant, but leave branches intact. Mums have a better chance of surviving if you wait to prune old stems until spring. As soon as the weather warms, pull away mulch to allow new shoots to pop up.

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