Chrysanthemums, or mums, are a beautiful addition to the fall landscape whether grown in containers or in the garden. One of the world’s most popular flowers, mums come in colors ranging from gold to purple to bronze to fire engine red. Mums combine well with other fall bloomers, particularly the ornamental grasses, fall-blooming anemones, asters, upright sedum, heucheras, and shrub roses. In container plantings, mums are splendid on their own when covered in flowers, and lovely when combined with summer’s coleus and component plants or fall’s ornamental kale, asters, and pansies.
All mums require full sun and moist but well-drained soil. Mums should be fertilized regularly until the buds begin to open. Then STOP fertilizing. Use a balanced water soluble fertilizer every two weeks up until the buds open.
MINNESOTA and MAMMOTH MUMS
When planting Minnesota or Mammoth mums as perennials, select a location with plenty of sun and good protection from winter winds. Both require moist, well-drained soil. Well-drained soil is a must for winter survival.
Space Minnesota mum plants 18”-24” apart. Space Mammoth mums 3’-4’ apart. Many varieties can get fairly tall, so you may want to stake them.
Add a soil amendment such as BioMax (a mix of black dirt, sphagnum peat and compost) to the native soil. The mix should be a 50/50 blend of BioMax and native soil. Dig a hole the same depth that the plant is growing in the container and 3 times wider so the plant has lots of space for its roots to spread out.
Mums also require moist soil, so it’s important to water long and slow on a regular basis to assure deep penetration of the water into the soil. A mulch, such as shredded wood or cocoa bean shells holds the moisture and prevents the sun from beating down on the plants’ roots, baking them, something mums do NOT like.
Many gardeners also use root stimulator when planting mums to aid in quick development of roots which can be valuable when planting in late summer or fall.
Once the flowers have completely faded at the end of the season, cut the plant back to about 4” tall.
Minnesota mums are hardy, but should still be considered tender perennials. Many of these varieties were developed at the University of Minnesota. Some varieties of Minnesota mums are available earlier in the season. Planting as early as possible will give your plants time to establish themselves. Mulching with at least 6” of mulch such as straw is advised for both Minnesota mums and the hardier Mammoth mums. This mulch should be added AFTER the ground is frozen!
While some gardeners leave plants standing until spring before cutting them back to the ground, others prefer to cut back the faded and brown plants in late fall, just before applying the winter mulch. Either practice is fine.
In its second year of growth the Mammoth mums attain the size of shrubs making them an excellent choice for a hedge, a use recommended by the developers of the Mammoth mum at the University of Minnesota.
Garden mums can be planted into beds, but since they are not likely to survive a winter in Minnesota, their best use may be in containers. Be sure that the containers have good drainage and use a light potting mix such as ProMix in the orange bags. Firm the soil but don’t pack it tightly. Whether in the ground or in pots, garden mums must also have good drainage!
When watering your containers, be sure to water the soil, NOT the foliage. Mums must be watered frequently to stay moist, but wet foliage can lead to a rotting plant. As with mums planted in the garden, feed container mums with a water soluble, balanced fertilizer such as Fertilome’s 20-20-20 every other week until the buds form and then stop fertilizing.
Whichever uses for mums suits your landscaping fancy, think of mums when you want late summer and fall color! Whether in mixed beds, hedges, or pots, chrysanthemums richly deserve their great popularity.
Mums have few pest problems. Red spider mite is the biggest nuisance. Use a miticide if necessary.
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