September 24, 2018

Chrysanthemums are a popular choice for fall landscaping.

Each garden season has its calling card, and just as the daffodils herald the warm song of spring, so do mums shepherd in the cool sounds of autumn.

As leaves flutter to the ground and summer flowers fold their fronds, chrysanthemums show off their scenic colors. Though many use mums like annuals, putting them in planters and pots, they can be perennials as well. If this is an avenue that seems appealing, here are a few hints that can assure the flowers will return each year with a bit of prompting.

The first step is to buy mums meant for a garden, ones which will survive winter in our region. To be assured they are perennials, look for the labels “hardy mum” or “garden mum.” This step is significant if you expect them to return next year. The best time to buy them is late August or early September so they can be planted with enough time for their roots to relax and delve into the soil. They have to have a bit of growing time for root growth or they will never make it through the cold weather.

It is also important to buy mums still in their bud stage so they will bloom this year as they establish themselves.

Watering the garden in the fall seems to be such a chore because most of it is not going to spring up and flower. Even so, if the mums are to survive they will need to be watered regularly until it frosts. Mulch them when they are planted and after the first good freeze to insulate the soil. Leave the stems alone until spring then clip them off if need be.

Once they start to peep out of the soil in the spring, start feeding them about once a month until mid-summer to get a healthy head of blooms. Keep them mulched to protect them from weeds and the hot summer weather and to retain moisture from regular watering.

Once new growth begins, start to shape the plant by snipping here and there — many flowers do well with a bit of a haircut to achieve more blooms, plus this will help them flesh out and give a bushier appearance. Snip that new growth until mid-July then enjoy their growth until September when the shorter days call them out to play.

Chrysanthemums come in a wide range of colors and varieties that fit easily in most gardens. They make a wonderful green background through the hot months while summer flowers show off their bright selves. There are lots of varieties, some calling out to be tall and stately and some to button size low to the ground. They come as daisylike blooms with yellow centers, pompom type for the ballgames, unique droopy spider blooms — the list is long and is a good one to investigate for the fall garden.

Then as the hot August sun begins to dry out the garden, they respond to the shorter days of the fall season and begin to bud and get ready to flower. Some mums are bred to bloom early in the season and some come later — to have a well-rounded garden, a few of each will keep the garden in bloom until the first frost.

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