AUBURN, Ala.- With every fall comes the beautiful displays of pumpkins, gourds, natural foliage and of course chrysanthemums. Better known as mums, these flowers have a variety of vibrant colors including golden yellow, burnt orange, deep purple, bold crimson and snowy white. If properly cared for, they can provide color all fall long. An Extension professional provides tips on purchasing and caring for mums this fall.
There are more than 200 different varieties of mums, including annuals, perennials and small shrubs. Most people, however, associate mums with three types: reflex, pompon and spider mums.
Sallie Lee, an Alabama Extension regional agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests, said most mums are planted early in the year.
“Mums tend to make their debut every fall,” Lee said. “Most varieties are actually planted in the spring, but they are in their element later in the year.”
Annual mums, also known as florist mums, are intended to be indoor plants. According to Lee, they can be planted in a sunny area but will not survive through winter.
“These are not hardy enough to last throughout the winter, especially in north Alabama,” Lee said. “Perennials on the other hand can overwinter if given a little extra treatment, such as mulching the root zones sufficiently.”
In-ground or perennial mums generally bloom longer if planted in the spring. They have access to more natural sunlight than those covered under a porch or inside a home.
Caring for Mums
If planting in-ground mums is not an option, buy a potted mum with lots of buds and not full blooms. It is tempting to buy them with buds already opened, but ones that have not blossomed will have a longer bloom period.
Access to moderate water in well-drained soil is they key to helping mums thrive. Before watering them, check the soil (in the ground or in pots) to make sure it is not too soggy. Soggy soil can lead to root rot.
Lee said that sunlight can affect the length of bloom time.
“Potted mums need indirect light rather than full sun,” said Lee. “Placing them in direct sunlight will encourage quicker blooms.”
Cooler temperatures also help sustain the bloom period, but in Alabama, there is no guarantee the weather will be cool.
Eventually, they start to lose their splendor, but don’t toss them out yet. If plants start wilting, it could be because of lack of water. Lee suggests giving them a slow, deep drink. Removing the spent blooms with your fingers or garden pruners also will encourage new blooms.
Alabama Extension has a publication, Fall Garden Mum Production In Alabama. This publication is directed toward commercial mum production, but still offers valuable information for the public. For further information, contact your county Extension office and speak with a home grounds agent.
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