How to Care for Mums for Plenty of Fall Color
The daytime temperatures may still be soaring upwards as the end of summer approaches but, believe it or not, containers of colorful chrysanthemums—or mums as we like to call them—will soon be appearing at your local plant nurseries and gardening centers. Perhaps no other fall flower creates as much excitement as the mum. The arrival of this brightly colored flower signals the coming of shorter days, cooler weather, outdoor decorating, cozy sweaters, pumpkins, apples, and so many more wonderful things. Follow these easy steps to get the biggest impact out of your mums this fall.
What Colors of Mums Are Available?
Mums bloom in all the colors of fall, offering vibrant orange, red, and yellow petals. The versatility of the chrysanthemum means that they also show off in white, pink, and lavender blossoms. You can group colorful mums together in pots to display on your front porch, plant them attentively in your garden, or have some fun and create mumkins by arranging bouquets of mums in pumpkins for a lovely fall decoration.
Look for Closed Buds When Buying
To maximize the chrysanthemum's bloom time, buy the plants just as they are starting to break bud. The fewer buds that are showing color, the better. However, you'll want to make certain that there is enough of the bud showing to be able to check the color of the plant you're buying. Not only will you be absolutely sure of what color mums you'll end up with when they fully bloom, but the flowers will also last longer this way. Once the buds begin to open up more, you are practically guaranteed flowers.
Give Them Room and Lots of Sun
Mums purchased from large garden centers are likely to be root bound and starving for soil, water, and nutrients. You'll need to repot them and give them plenty of room to breathe. Pick a container or garden spot that offers the mums ample space for the root ball to spread out and grow. Whether you are going to put your mums in pots to decorate your porch or use them as a bedding plant, you want to choose a spot that gets a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight per day—even more for bigger plants. Water well and continue to water every other day or so as long as the plant continues blooming.
How to Keep Flowers Coming
Keep the soil the mums are in moist, but not wet. Fertilizing these particular flowers is not necessary. You should also take time to remove spent and faded blooms to encourage even more buds to open and you will have beautiful, colorful mums throughout the season.
How to Care for Them Through the Winter
After a few hard touches of frost, the foliage on your mums will begin to brown. That means it is time to replant potted mums in your garden. Also, if you had put mums into beds for temporary fall color, you may want to transplant them to another location as well. When repotting or relocating your mums, make sure to choose a location with well-draining soil. Many times, it isn't necessarily the cold weather itself that kills mums, but the ice that forms around the roots if the mums are sitting in water. Soil that drains properly is key to successfully overwintering mums. You may also want to choose a location that is somewhat sheltered from strong, cold winter winds, which can also be harsh on mums.
Once in the ground, cut the stems of the mums at three to four inches above the ground. Leaving a little bit of the stems will ensure that you have a full plant next year, as the new stems will grow from these trimmed stems. Once the ground has frozen, add a layer of either mulch, straw, or leaves over the plant to help keep it insulated. This keeps the ground from going through a cycle of warming-freezing-warming which only serves to confuse the plant as to whether it should stay dormant or begin putting out new growth. Watch for new foliage in the spring, fertilize with an organic fertilizer, and pinch every two to four weeks to ensure you have sturdy plants come fall.