Mums, a traditional fall favorite
By Melinda Myers
The rich colors and fall bloom of Chrysanthemums represent fall for many. It’s also the November birth flower symbolizing cheerfulness, optimism, and friendship. Add a few to your indoor décor and help improve the indoor air quality in your home.
This traditional favorite is often overlooked for other newer introductions. Mums’ long vase life, variety of flower shapes, and array of colors have helped it maintain a role in flower arrangements, gift plant sales and fall gardens.
These plants begin to flower based on day length. As days shorten and nights lengthen, the plants begin to flower. Those grown as gift plants, often called florist mums, or for cut flowers usually require the longest periods of uninterrupted darkness or shorter days. Growers can force them into bloom any time of the year by covering them to create the shorter days that initiate flowering. When these mums are grown under natural daylight they flower in late fall or early winter.
Maximize your enjoyment of potted gift mums by selecting plants with deep green leaves and only a few open flowers. Then enjoy watching the remaining buds burst into bloom.
Place the plant in a cool, brightly lit location free of drafts that can cause buds to drop. Water thoroughly and pour off any excess water. Or reduce maintenance by placing pebbles in the bottom of the foil wrap, decorative basket, or saucer. The excess water collects in the pebbles below the pot and eventually evaporates, increasing the humidity around the plant.
Remove faded flowers to keep your plant looking its best. Once it’s done blooming, you can enjoy the greenery or add the plant to the compost pile. Keep in mind florist mums may not thrive or flower in the garden like those sold as hardy or garden mums.
Grow mums headed to the garden in a sunny window and water the soil thoroughly whenever it starts to dry. Wait for the danger of frost to pass before moving the mum outdoors. Pinch the plant back to four to six inches throughout June to keep it tidy and compact. Those with long growing seasons can continue pinching plants through mid-July. If lucky, you will have flowers before the snow flies.
Next year, consider planting a few mums in the garden for an added blast of fall color. Garden mums are sold at nurseries and garden centers each fall. They may be hardy and suited to the area, but all the energy is directed to the flowers. This leaves little to establish a hardy robust root system for winter survival.
Those sold as perennial mums are usually hardy enough to survive the winter and flower early enough to provide weeks of color in the garden. Increase your success by planting them in spring. This allows the plant time to develop a robust root system before it begins flowering in the fall.
As the holidays approach, celebrate the season with a potted chrysanthemum or a few flowering stems. Then plan on adding some perennial mums to your garden next summer.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including The Midwest Gardener’s Handbook and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her web site is www.melindamyers.com.