AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Chrysanthemums, also known as mums, are iconic horticultural features of autumn each year. However, these flowers can be difficult to take care of for some consumers. An Alabama Cooperative Extension System county extension coordinator has some useful tips on how not to kill your mums.
Many Alabamians love to see mums’ bright blooms contrast with the fall landscape. This is a good thing because mums grow well in Alabama according to Chilton County Extension Coordinator Lucy Edwards.
“There are two main categories of mums: floral and garden,” Edwards said. “Floral mums are those that typically are not grown outside and sold by florists for arrangements. Garden mums are those that people see in garden centers during the fall.”
There are also types of mums that are categorized by flower type and shape. The two most common types are daisy mums and decorative flower mums. Colors range from white, bronze, yellow, red, coral, pink, lavender and red.
Choosing the right Mum
For some chrysanthemum enthusiasts, choosing the best mum might as well be as important as picking the perfect Christmas tree. Edwards said there are a couple characteristics to look for when choosing the right mum.
Buy mums with unopened blooms. When buying a mum, it can be tempting to grab the largest, fully-blooming plant. Make sure to buy the mums with their blooms not quite open. This choice will allow for a longer blooming time once you get it home. Always check for insects and diseases. Nobody wants a sick plant. Be on the lookout for powdery mildew in mums. This disease can occur after hot and humid fall seasons. To control mildew, remove all infected leaves and treat the mum with an appropriately labeled fungicide.
Caring for Mums
Once you have learned about mums and how to choose the right one at your local garden center, you must know how to keep it alive. To boil it down, mums require moist, well-draining soil combined with six plus hours of daily sunlight. Below are the primary guidelines on caring for mums.
Whether you prefer your mums repotted from their original pot or planted in a landscape, there are some guidelines to ensure a successful plant. As stated earlier, mums need moist, well-draining soil. Ensure that any mum is in a location that receives six plus hours of daily sunlight.
“Plant your mums at the same depth as the size of their original containers,” Edwards said. “It’s better to plant too shallow than too deep.”
Edwards also said garden mums will bloom best if they are divided every two to three years. Otherwise, any new growth will be long and spindly with fewer blooms. Pinching new shoots in the spring will encourage lateral shoots, providing more flowers and a fuller plant. Do not pinch after July or the mum may not have time for blooms to develop.
Water, water, and water again
Edwards explicitly says the most common mistake in caring for mums is forgetting to water them daily. In the fall months, rainfall can be scarce, meaning consumers should adequately water their mums and ensure any excess water drains out of a pot or naturally runs off a planting site. A good routine is feeling the soil’s moisture each day to the depth of 1 inch. If it feels moist, wait a day and check again. If it feels dry in the top inch, be sure to water that day.
“It is easy to assume that the plant is fine. Too often cooler temperatures lead us to neglect the task of watering,” Edwards said. “It is easy to assume that the plant is fine. Before we realize it, there is a dead plant on the front porch.”
If you are prone to forgetting to water, replant the mum in a container that has a reservoir or add a saucer to collect the water. These will extend the time between waterings.
Soon, these popular fall floral features will be appearing on front porches around the state. Now that you know your mum must, help a neighbor by sharing these tips. For more information about mums and other seasonal plants, please visit the Alabama Extension website at www.aces.edu.