Are your gardens looking a little pale? Has the color faded or disappeared? Donít despair! I have the answer to perk up your yards and gardens: the versatile Chrysanthemum, better known to most of as mums.
Chrysanthemums, or "mums," are popular perennials. While many of summer's blooms are fading, you can refresh your garden's color with mums. Colors ranges from many shades of yellow, orange, red, purple, bronze, pink and white. The flowers themselves come in many different forms, from spider types with long, narrow petals to cushion types that have wider, more compact flowers.
Today's chrysanthemums are highly evolved flowering plants. A member of the Asteraceae (Compositae) family, the chrysanthemum (Dendranthema) is related to dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias and cosmos. The bloom that appears as a single flower is actually hundreds of flowers called florets. Two kinds of florets are present in a single bloom, disk florets and ray florets. On a daisy-type chrysanthemum, the outer parts are ray florets and the center or eye is composed of disk florets.
Mums come in a rainbow of colors to suit any design need
The best planting time is late spring, but fall planting can be successful with a little extra attention to watering and winter protection. Choose a sunny, well-drained location with good air circulation for optimum growth and disease resistance. Growth is poor and winterkill likely in poorly drained wet soils.
Garden mums also make great container plants. They're just right for popping into a clay pot, lining up in a row in a window box, or placing in the center of a mixed container with trailing foliage plants all around. Many landscape plants can provide a backdrop for groupings of mums.
Mums make great container plants
To get the most from your mums, choose cultivars according to their bloom times. It also helps to coordinate bloom time with the length of fall in your location. Most garden mums will withstand a light fall frost, but finding the right cultivars will provide the longest possible amount of pleasure.
Here is a list of different varieties to help you in choosing plants for your garden.
3 ½" decorative
'Betty Lou' Maxi-mumTM
2 ½" button
Medium 30" spread
3" double pompon
1 ½" double decorative
Rose lavender, gold centers
Bright rose pink
3" flat, decorative
Peachy bronze to golden yellow
4" double, decorative
Rich deep yellow
3 ½" single spoon
Bright rosy purple
3 ½" flat decorative
Light bronze orange
2" double button
4 ½" quilled incurve
3 ½" flat, decorative
4 ½" semi-incurved decorative
2 ½" formal decorative
Light lemon yellow
2 ¼" decorative
2 ¼" decorative
1 ½" flat, decorative
Bright rose pink
Deep rose pink
1 ½" pompon
2 ¼" decorative
Rich lemon yellow
2 - 3" decorative
Deep rosy pink
4" decorative incurved
Burgundy, silver underside
3 ½" reflexed decorative
2" pompon-spicy fragrance
White, purple tips
3' semi-double decorative
White, cream centers
1 ½" pompom
3" flat, decorative
2 ¾" decorative
* Names beginning with Minn indicate cushion habit of growth.
** Low: up to 12 inches; medium: 12 - 18 inches; tall: over 18 inches. These measurements refer to first-year plants properly spaced and grown in full sun.
Care of Mums
Mums are a relatively maintance free plant, but there are a few things that need to be done to ensure a robust healthy plant.
Pinching. Mums maintain a bushy compact plant form if pinched or pruned regularly. Although newer cultivars do not require pinching, the traditional method has been to pinch out the tip to induce branching and produce stockier plants. Repeat pinching on side branches when they have grown 6". Continue pinching until mid-June for early flowering varieties, late June for September flowering varieties, and early July for October varieties. Complete pinching by July 4 to assure flowering prior to frost. Very high summer temperatures may also delay flowering. Most mum flowers are resistant to frost.
Summer Care.Water plants regularly if the summer is dry or if soil is light and sandy. Wet soil to a depth of 6 - 8". Apply 2 - 3" of mulch such as grass clippings, compost, or shredded leaves to conserve soil moisture and reduce weeds. Sidedressing plants with a complete fertilizer in early August, especially in years of abundant rainfall or irrigation, also is recommended. If the fertilizer applied in the spring is a slowly available type, such as coated or organic fertilizer, the second application may not be necessary. Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart, depending on the mature size of the cultivar.
Overwintering.Mums vary widely in cold hardiness. Cultivars listed in the table below have been developed based on years of plant breeding at the University of Minnesota. These plants have been selected for superior flower characteristics, growth habit, and winter hardiness. Most will survive winters in Minnesota. Florist mums, sold throughout the year in supermarkets and greenhouses, may not survive Minnesota winters, and if they do, will probably not flower before hard frosts. Proper location (good drainage and protection from winter winds) and a winter mulch of 4 to 6 inches of shredded leaves, hay, straw, or evergreen branches applied as soon as the soil surface freezes is critical to winter survival.
Insect and Disease Control
Several diseases and insects attack mums. Prevention of many of them can be done by following these recommendations:
Buy plants that are free of diseases and insects.
Plant in a sunny location.
Allow plenty of air circulation by avoiding over crowding.
Keep your garden free of weeds and disease-infested plants.
Typical problems on mums include verticillium wilt, septoria leaf spot, powdery mildew, aphids, leafhoppers, plant bugs, leafminers, and spider mites. Before using a pesticide, diagnose problems carefully and correctly. Contact your local county Extension office for further information.
Variety table courtesy of the University of Minnoseta Extension.
About Paul Rodman
Paul Rodman has been gardening for over 45 years. He is an Advanced Master Gardener, and American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian. He is President Emertius of the Western Wayne County Master Gardener Association in Wayne County, Michigan. He currently serves as the greenhouse chairman of this group. Rodman has amassed over 5500 volunteer hours in the Master Gardener program.
Rodman is the garden columnist for The News Herald newspaper, in Southgate, Michigan. He has also written for the Organic Gardening.com web site.
He is a certified Master Canner and has taught classes on Home Food Preserving for 7 years.
He has lectured on various gardening topics throughout southeastern Michigan.
His favorite pastime is teaching children about gardening. For the past several years he has conducted classes for second grade students teaching them about subjects ranging from vermi-composting to propagation.