As a gardener, fall is mostly the time for winding down the garden and preparing for winter. But the bright spot for the fall gardener are the Chrysanthemums. Those cheerful, colorful mounds of flowers are a spectacular joy to any gardener’s heart.
Mums are perennial (meaning they come back every year) but many of us have experienced planting a gorgeous mum in the fall that did not survive the winter and does not reappear in the spring. After a couple of those experiences, I figured out the steps to ensure your mums do make it through the winter and become a permanent fixture in your yard!
The most important key is to plant EARLY. Mums need time to develop their root systems and you never know how much time you are going to have in the fall. An early cold snap can be really hard on a plant that has just been put into the ground. Mums start arriving at the stores in late August, so don’t tarry – pick out your plants and get them in the ground as soon as possible.
As with any plant, be sure dirt is packed around the roots well and they are not exposed to the air. This gets kind of tough with a mum because the branches are so close to the ground and there is not much room to work, but do your best. Mulch the plant when you plant it to help hold in the water. I prefer Cypress Mulch for this – I think its color is the prettiest. However, cedar or red mulch works fine too.
Mums need more protection from the winter than just mulch though. After the weather has turned cold and the branches of the mum are dry, break down the branches to form a protective “tent” over the roots. Don’t be afraid to break down all the branches because they will just need to be cleared away in the spring anyway since mums sprout from the roots, not the old branches. Tuck some dry leaves into the “tent” to create a nice protective blanket.
When chance of frost is past in the spring, carefully cut away the old branches – do NOT try to just pull them, you will pull up the new sprouts as well. Leaving a little stubble is ok as it becomes a barrier to critters who would like to eat the new sprouts. Tend your mums through the summer by pruning them into a nice ball shape – pruning will make for a fuller plant and more lush blooms too.
Then, just sit back and enjoy the beautiful colors of fall!
For more information on Chrysanthemums click here.