Fall Tips – How Hardy Are Garden Mums?
This frequently asked question has a number of factors to consider before the answer is given. Years ago, our grandmothers had a limited selection of flowers that would bloom and provide color in the garden during the fall season. There were only a few types of mums with flowers that were limited to a few basic colors, and that bloomed about the same time. The consumer was interested in a greater range of colors that would bloom over a longer period of time. They wanted plants that bloomed from August all the way through the fall to Thanksgiving. They also seemed interested in different types of flowers for additional interest. A marketing opportunity was seen and breeders were asked to develop plants that would satisfy consumer’s demands.
Over time the breeders came up with very compact varieties that had hundreds of flowers, new colors and even some with petals of one color and centers of another color. They developed plants that would bloom early and varieties that would bloom later. Those that bloom later are referred to as “season extenders”. Some even had more fragrance. All these “new” characteristics were the drivers of the breeding process. Hardiness was sacrificed for the sake of color and bloom time. We now consider garden mums as a seasonal decorating plant that can be used to replace some of the annuals that have served their purpose. If they survive the winter, it is a bonus.
Here are ways to improve the survivability of the “garden mums” we have today and some things you can do that will help your mums get through the winter in good condition.
1) Plant your mums as early in the fall as possible, by mid-October is preferable.
2) Use good compost, peat moss or a good quality potting soil like Metro Mix 360 to amend the ground where you are planting. Mix 1/3 by volume of the amendment with 2/3 by volume of the soil removed from the hole you dug to refill the hole. The top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding soil when planting is finished.
3) Use a starter fertilizer mixed according to the directions on the container with the backfill soil. This will stimulate those good healthy roots to get growing in their new location.
4) Soak the plant roots after planting by flooding the hole with water. Water the plant every second or third day if we don’t get rain. Avoid letting it wilt severely. It is very important to get the roots established.
5) Mulch the plant with about one inch of mulch when planting. In mid-December, or when the ground begins to freeze and the top of the plant looks brown and dry, cover the top of the plant with leaves or straw. Do not cut the top of the plant back at this time and be sure the soil is damp when you’re doing this step.
6) About mid-March, when we get a mild day remove the leaves or straw you put on in December. In April, when you see the new shoots sprouting, you can trim back the dead top to the new shoots. Fertilize at this time with a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote.
If you follow these easy steps, you should have better success with your mums surviving the winter. Send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to help you with your gardening success.
The gardening team at Meadow View