By PJ Martin
The one flower most thought of in fall is likely the chrysanthemum or mum. Their vast splashes of color just scream fall.
Mums are usually planted in the fall, but did you know that they are likely not the perennial variety and will not come back next year? That’s right, most mums you see available in the fall markets are annuals, not perennials.
There are two types of mums, the ones commonly found in grocery stores and florists each fall are known as florist mums. According to the USDA, they are only hardy in zones 7 to 9.
The second type is known as garden mums or hardy mums and they are for zones 4 to 9 per the USDA. You can access the zone chart to see what zone you live in at https://www.usna.usda.gov/science/plant-hardiness-zone-map/.
Another issue is fall planting. By planting later the plants use all their energy for blooming. If you want healthy mums for next year, you need to plant them earlier so they can put their energy into putting down a vigorous root system. That means you will more than likely have to order the plants from a catalog because nurseries don’t sell mums in the spring.
Once you get the plants, dig the hole slightly bigger than the pot and only as deep as the root ball. Don’t plant them too deep. Water them well and mulch around the plants to maintain moisture.
The plants will need to get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day and make sure you water them if the weather becomes drier than normal.
When next spring arrives, feed the plants with a slow-release fertilizer. You will also need to pinch off the tips of each branch about an inch. This makes the plant bushier. You may need to do this more than once before June or July. After that, the small flower buds will appear.
If you don’t want to bother with pinching off the branch ends, you don’t have to. The plants will not grow as full, but they will still bloom as usual in the fall.
To review, make sure and read the label carefully to see which type of mum you are buying, plant in the spring, maintain, and enjoy.