We are starting to see pumpkins and mums appearing everywhere. Though we hate to see summer end, it is always a relief to get a break from the heat of the summer months.
Our mums are starting to show color and some of us with an inside track know that the prettiest colors come a little later than others. No matter what your color choice, these fall blooms are often the highlight of the fall garden with their bright colors showing off amongst a world that is fading into the grey doldrums of late summer and early fall.
The blooms often keep going until the first frost. A lot of our customers ask if mums are annuals or perennials. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer as they can be both depending on the variety you buy. Mums can be divided into two main categories- florist mums and hardy mums.
Florist Mums are exactly what the name implies. These are the mums you find at your local florist that are grown in greenhouses and are used for cutting flowers or special occasions. These are specifically grown for annual use. Florist mums do not produce underground runners and produce larger blooms with longer stems. Florist mums can be planted outdoors in spring after the last frost but may or may not overwinter.
Hardy Mums are grown for perennial uses. These plants will grow a bit more compact and their blooms tend to be smaller but more plentiful. They will produce underground runners to help them survive the winter temperatures. When selecting a hardy mum, be sure to know your zone as some varieties are colder tolerant than others. Most hardy mums are cold-tolerant in zones 5 through 9.
Both of these are derived from a single-parent plant. It was a golden yellow, a daisy-like mum from China. Through generations of hybridization with other cultivars from Japan and China, we have come to these two, very distinct varieties, grown for very different purposes. Most garden mums are hardy in our area if you take care of them.
So, now that you have purchased your mum, you will need to tend to it to keep the beauty going into the cold. Mums love full sun but all that heat means you must be vigilant about watering. Too much water can cause root rot and too little can cause the plant too much stress and it may die. If you plant in full sun, be sure to water at least daily soaking the soil thoroughly. They will definitely wilt if they get dry. Don’t water the foliage as that can cause disease. Mums make excellent container plants but will need to be planted into the ground before winter hits if you want them to survive.
As your mum produces blooms you will find that deadheading is beneficial to the production of new blooms and making the blooms last longer.
When putting your hardy mums into the ground, keep in mind that they love rich well-drained soil. Lots of sunshine and water will keep them lovely. Be sure to mulch well with pine needles or mulch, working it around the stems at ground level. You don’t want to cut off the spent growth until spring as the new shoots emerge. Divide your plants about every two years to keep them from getting too crowded.
As was mentioned before, not all hardy mums are tolerant in all zones, so do your homework. If you are only interested in their short-term appeal as an annual, the sky is the limit. Use your imagination and go wild. Either way, you are sure to enjoy these fall favorites no matter how you choose to use them.