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Chrysanthemum (Mums) Plants

A classic perennial for fall color.

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Add vibrant late summer and fall color to your flower beds with mums. Also called chrysanthemums, mums are an easy-to-grow, low maintenance perennials that provide late season color when many other perennials are done flowering for the season. In the fall, flowers cover the plants creating a vibrant display. For a huge impact, consider our Mammoth Mums. These sun-loving perennials are so big, they can be used like small shrubs to line a walkway. Mums prefer well-drained soil and a sunny location. Mum plants can be planted in partial shade, but perform best with several hours of direct sunlight daily.

How to grow mums:
Chrysanthemums are among the showiest members of late summer and autumn-time gardens. While many gardeners are used to picking up a fall mum as an annual each year, you can actually grow your own mums and care for them year after year! So, how do you grow and care for mums?

In order to grow mums successfully, you need to get them into the ground early. Most mums arrive in small pots, and planting them in springtime gives them plenty of time to build a strong root system before the cold weather sets in! Choose a sunny location for your mums, and avoid locations where water pools. To plant, simply set your mum plants in the ground at the same level as growing in the pot.

Mums will fill out their root systems throughout the springtime. Fertilize your mum plants with a 10-10-10 fertilizer or other balanced fertilizer in the spring, and water them generously throughout the growing season. If your mums develop springtime flowers, snip off the flowers to allow the plants to send more energy to their roots. Fertilize for the last time in early August, or whenever fall buds begin to form. In the fall, you will have a full display of brightly-colored mums to enjoy!

After mums' flowers fade and the plants prepare for dormancy, they require a little winterizing. Don't cut your mums back -- mums left standing through the winter have a better chance of survival -- but do place mulch or hay evenly around the base of the plants for insulation. If you're in a very cold zone (below Zone 4) you should lift your mums and store them inside for the winter. In the spring, wait until after the last frost to uncover your mums and cut down the old growth. A late cold snap could kill tender new shoots.

Are chrysanthemums annuals or perennials?
Chrysanthemums can be treated as an annual or perennial. While many big-box stores and nursery centers offer fall mums in pots as annuals each autumn, you can actually grow mums as perennials by planting them in the spring. Hardy mums will come back year after year, although they perform better with a little over-winter help.

To increase your mums' chance of survival, get them in the ground in the springtime, this allows them to build a strong system of roots and branches. Fertilize regularly throughout the growing season, but stop before the fall: late-season fertilization can keep the mums growing, and prevent them from entering the dormant state that helps them survive the winter. As frost approaches, add mulch or a few inches of hay at the base of each plant, to protect the roots from freezing.

Do not cut the branches of your mums back until spring. Chrysanthemums have a better rate of survival when allowed to remain as complete plants throughout the winter. Plus, the flowers and foliage of your fall mums will harden into interesting and visually-appealing dried branches.

When springtime rolls around, it's time to revive your mums. After the last frost, prune the dead foliage down to the ground, and add fresh soil to the planting location. Begin fertilizing again, and water your mums well. As your mum plants bounce back, they may produce early spring buds. Pinch those buds back, to allow the plant to conserve energy for healthier foliage and another beautiful fall display!

Where do chrysanthemums grow best?
Chrysanthemums are actually native to Northern Europe and Asia: China hosts a huge variety of mums, and the flowers are featured prominently in Chinese art and autumnal festivals. Luckily for us, mums grow well in most of the United States! Most mums are hardy from zones 5 to 9.

In selecting a place to plant your mums, be sure to choose a location with full sun, as mums need lots of sunlight to bloom. You'll also want to choose a spot without drainage issues: mums do not like wet roots. Mums can also be planted in containers, making them even easier to store during winter.

When do mum plants bloom?
Fall mum plants bloom -- that's right -- in the fall! Some members of the chrysanthemum family, such as shasta daisies, bloom in the summer. However, most autumnal mums will bloom from August to November. The exact time frame of your mums' blooming season depends on the variety of mums. Different cultivars come into bloom at different times, based on their response to day length. Early season mums can be expected to bloom in early to mid-September, mid-season varieties from middle to late September and late season varieties from late September to early October.

Because mums are fall-blooming, they are the perfect decor for football season, Halloween, and even Thanksgiving! Just as most flowers are beginning to fade, mums hit their stride.

How do you pinch mums back?
Pinching mums back allows the plant to produce more flowers, and forces the plant to maintain a compact shape. Most of the classic football mums that you can buy at garden centers have been pinched back throughout the spring, so that the plants hold a pretty, domed shape and are packed with blooms. However, many modern types of mums are bred to grow in that classic shape and do not require frequent pinching.

If you'd like to pinch back your mums, start in the spring when your plants are a bit less than one foot tall. Use a sharp, clean pair of shears to cut back the entire plant by about half. You can repeat this process every two to three weeks until mid-summer. In the fall, don't pinch back your mums, but do deadhead mums by removing faded flowers.

If you want to grow a more natural-looking garden, you don't have to pinch your mums back at all! They'll still thrive without pinching, and will grow in a taller shape and "branchier" look.

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