Save the mums
The queen of fall flowers – the chrysanthemum or “mum” – often ends up as little more than a late-season throw-away. The brilliant flowers shine for a few weeks alongside the pumpkins and straw bales, then the plants get trashed as the waning sunshine sets on their browned tops. What a waste.
Not all gardeners are aware that most of the mums sold in garden centers – especially in summer and fall – are winter-hardy ones. These so-called “garden mums” usually survive winters down to Zone 5 and sometimes Zone 4.
With a little know-how, garden mums will come back reliably for many years.
In ensuing years, start the growing season by trimming or pulling off the winter-killed foliage. Then scatter a once-a-season dose of the same GreenView mum fertilizer over the bed, freshen the mulch (if needed) and watch for new growth.
Early spring is also a good time to dig and divide mums -- right before new growth occurs. Dividing is usually a good idea every two or three years. Cut the clumps into at least fist-sized pieces. For large plants that seem to be dying out in the center, keep divisions from around the perimeter and discard the middle. To keep mums from flopping over under the weight of their bountiful fall flowers, keep the plants cut back to about 6 inches until late June or early July. Go ahead and shear them. You don’t have to “pinch” each stem one by one as some people think. You may need to cut your plants two or even three times before letting them proceed into their flowering phase in mid to late summer. The result will be compact, non-flopping plants with heavy and more uniform blooming.
Keep in mind that mums also are more prone to flop if grown in too much shade or in soil that’s overly loose and rich. Some varieties also are naturally more compact than others, so check the labels for shorties if you lean in that direction. Then have fun picking from the many colors and flower forms available in this popular perennials.
Yes, garden mums are perennials in most of the U.S. – not fall-blooming annuals.
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