Tips to follow so the beautiful flowers return the next year
By LINDA C. DOLAK
OSU Master Gardener Volunteer
Our flowers are turning brown, and our plants are drooping.
To remedy that situation, here come the mums (chrysanthemums) to spruce up the color before the winter blahs.
At this time of year, we begin seeing beautiful fall colors in mums – red, golds, pinks, yellow, white, purple, and burgundy. Blue is the only color that has not yet been perfected in these garden plants.
We can also find flowers in a variety of shapes – pompons, daisy-like, spider, and button. They are in yards, on porches, and are part of fall arrangements.
Have you ever planted your mums, expecting to find them the following year? And then, there is nothing. Hopefully, this information will help you with that problem and allow you to see the beautiful flowers return the following year.
Not all mums can survive the winter. There are actually two classes of mums when it comes to determining perennial (bloom the following year) and annual (last only one season).
Before the 1960s, all mums were very cold hardy. They would return year after year. Over the years, however, growers began to “breed” the mums for different colors and shapes. Unfortunately, they have also bred the cold-hardiness from them. New and different ones appear every year.
Many of the mums we see today are referred to as “florist mums.” They are beautiful and colorful, but they will not last over the cold winter months because their root systems do not have strong underground shoots. They are sold for floral purposes, either potted or as cut flowers.
They can be planted in the garden to add color, but they will not return the following season. These mums are likely to be sold in grocery stores, big-box stores and locations where you find seasonal, fall decorations
The garden mums, sometimes called “hardy mums,” on the other hand, make a great addition to any garden. They can bloom in September, October, and even into November.
They will normally over-winter in our area. This means that they can be considered perennials and will return next year.
They have many branches and can get very large, sometimes even becoming “shrub-like.” They can be planted in the spring or in the fall. Hardy mums can usually be found in your garden centers. If not sure, ask for them.
Hardy mums need a little extra care if you want them to return the following year.
As they can get large, they may need to be staked. To reduce stem growth and to keep them looking fuller, most of the mums will need to be pinched back two to three times before the middle of June.
To pinch a mum, remove about one-third of the new growth, back to the bud. This should be done when the plants are about 6 inches tall. This first pinch encourages lateral branches.
When the lateral branches are about 6 inches tall, pinch a second time, just above an attached leaf. The result will be nicely shaped plants that are covered with buds.
Many of us really dislike doing this because it seems that we are reducing the size of the potential mum. Pinching, however, will encourage the growth of branches, increase the plant’s width, and increase the budding.
Garden mums prefer well-drained soil and need to be fed. You can use an all-purpose fertilizer in the spring, when growth starts, and in the middle of summer when the flowers begin to form. They should be watered deeply but infrequently.
When the garden mums are planted in the fall, they need a little more attention to watering and winter protection. Chose a sunny area where there will be good air flow.
It is not necessary to cut the mums back after they have finished blooming in the fall. It is best to mulch hardy mums with about 6 to 8 inches of mulch. Pine needles or straw will work very well.
For information, see: http://go.osu.edu/gardenmums.