Q: I am getting excited for the fall and planting mums. Can I keep them growing after the fall blooms are spent?

A: I love the fall chrysanthemums season too. They start their blooms when our other flowers start to fade. They reflect the beautiful fall colors of reds, yellows, oranges and burgundies and ring in the beginning of the year-end celebrations. Chrysanthemums are perennials and can return each year with their full beauty if you know how to take care of them.

Buy your fall mums when they are still green and with blossoms that haven’t opened yet. This will give you longer blooming plants. If you are decorating your porch with mums in pots, make sure they get plenty of sun and water to get the best blooms.

Check your plants every day if they are in direct sun to make sure they don’t dry out. One way to see if they have enough water is to either use a moisture meter or just stick your finger into the soil, and if it sticks to you finger, it should be moist enough. If they are dry, water the plants until the water runs out of the bottom of the pots. Since mums do not like to sit in water, make sure you take them out of the decorative foil covers or pots without drainage holes.

If you want your beautiful mums to come back year after year, plant them before the possibility of freezing. Late September to November is a good time in our area. Find a sunny location with adequate drainage. Be careful not to plant them deeper than they were in their pots to protect their surface roots. When you put them in the ground, water them well. And apply a layer of mulch around the base.

Chrysanthemums can be tender perennials in harsh winters, so you may need to protect them with burlap covers if the winter gets too severe. As the blooms fade, deadhead by pinching the flowers down to the first leaf. In the spring, remove any old stems. They can be fertilized at the end of May.

Now here is the important part to have your mums develop dense abundant blooms for the following fall. The mums will bloom in summer and get quite leggy if you don’t keep them pinched back through the summer months. When your plants start budding, begin pruning back. Cut or pinch the buds down to a full leaf. We don’t want the messy stems to be prominent if you only take off the bud. This pinching back will delay the blooming and encourage lateral branching, thus keeping the plant full. Continue pinching the bud until the end of July.

You can also cut a few stems below the leaves to start new cuttings. Just dip them in a root hormone and place in soil. In a couple of weeks, the transplants will produce roots. They may be small the first season but will make a bigger statement the following year.

If you are like me and as they days grow shorter and cooler, fall is a very exciting time of the year. As gardeners, we still have the opportunity for blooms in our gardens. Mums have become the symbol of fall. And we hope to see you all out for New Bern’s Mumfest.

If you want more information on Chrysanthemums, go online to https://hortscans.ces.ncsu.edu/uploads/g/a/garden_m_51dda5587ec26.pdf.

 

The mission of the CCMGVA is to provide research-based information about gardening, environmental stewardship and best horticulture practices to the community. If you have gardening questions, email cravenmastergardenervol@gmail.com, call 633-1477, stop by at the Saturday Farmers Market booth or attend one of the many lectures, tours or workshops.