Mums, or Chrysanthemums, are one of the most popular and classic fall flowers for the garden of all time. With good reason! They come in a wide array of colors, last well into frost, and keep a dying landscape looking fresh and colorful while we ready ourselves for letting go of the growing season. But there are some tricks to growing them, and some of them may catch you off guard. Here are the five mistakes most people make growing Mums, and how to correct them!
Planting Mums from the gift section.
If your Mums come in a foil wrapped pot, I have news for you. It’s gonna die. Chances are a well meaning friend gave you this plant in late fall as a gift, and intended for you to plant it in your garden for next year. The problem with that is that gift plants are grown entirely in a greenhouse. Which means, they have never been conditioned to living outdoors. Add to that the fact that nights are growing cold, and frost is just around the corner, and there is no way these plants can harden off before winter sets in. Just enjoy them on a sunny window sill. Then let them go. :) Then look for nursery grown plants called “hardy” Mums. And get them in the ground no later than early fall. (And spring is better!).
Mistake #2 –
Forgetting to Feed! Mums are heavy feeders, and they are even more voracious if they are planted in containers. Feed, feed, feed!
Expecting them to be hardy while planted in containers. While I do use Chrysanthemums in containers, and I have had them overwinter and come back in the spring, this is the exception. When plants are in containers, there root systems are less protected. If you plant Mums in containers, treat them as annuals and plan to replace them next year. This is why they are cheap!
Not Pinching! When Mums are about six inches tall, and then again at twelve inches, you should pinch off the tips of the branches. This forces the plant to grow more compact, and thus avoids that awkward “floppy” stage right before they are ready to open their blooms, ruining the whole seasons growth!
Not taking advantage of Mums in the garden bed. You know what, don’t wait for fall to think “I want some Mums to add fall color!”. Plant Mums in the spring with your other perennials, and make sure you try varieties of different size, colors and flowers shape. Think of Mums kind of like planting bulbs in the fall… you know you won’t see those tulips bloom until the next season, but it’s worth the wait.