24 August 2022
Around the middle of August grocery stores, big box garden centers, and nurseries offer potted mums for sale. Most people enjoy them and then toss the entire thing at the end of the season. After enjoying the splash of color on the patio or around the house, some people will try to plant the flowers in the garden. Often the mums do not do well after being placed in the ground, disappointing the homeowner. Here are some tips.
Not all mums are hybridized to become perennials. Read the white tag that comes stuck in each pot. It should say that it is hardy to Zone 5 or lower. If you are buying at a nursery, you have a better chance of getting good advice than if you are at a chain garden center where the sales person is on loan from plumbing supplies.
When you get the plants home, leave them outdoors and then get them into the ground within the first few days. The longer the roots are out of the pot and into garden soil, the better chance they have of establishing themselves before winter arrives. Then a day or so later, go out and remove all the blooms. I know….I know…your fall garden has now been robbed of the color you want. There is a very good reason to do this. While a plant is flowering, all of its energy and most of its nutrition is transferred to the blooms. What you are trying to do with the planting phase is to have the mum establish as strong a root system as possible. By diverting the energy from blooms to roots, you will be building a stronger plant for the future.
Mums grow best when they will receive full sun. Planting near or under trees or large shrubs is not recommended because the roots of the mums will be in competition for the nutrients in the soil and can provide too much shade. Select a site that will not be affected by a hot, dry summer wind. In fact, varieties with tall stems or large flowers can be broken by too much wind. Good drainage is recommended since mums are prone to soilborne diseases.
They will tolerate most types of soil and it is best if organic matter has been incorporated. The plants should be placed around 18 to 24 inches apart and dig to the same depth as the pot. You can either cut the sides of the pot or tap the pot on the edge of a hard surface to dislodge the plant. Remove as much of the potted soil as possible and try to loosen the roots a bit. Add a bit of fertilizer per the manufacturer’s directions. Don’t fertilize again until spring.
For the first couple of weeks, keep the soil moist but not wet. You can mulch with about 2 inches but don’t use grass clippings.
After the ground is frozen, cut the plant back to about 2 or 3 inches high and mulch over the top. If it is a particularly dry winter, you may need to water them.
With spring, fertilize when the first shoots start to emerge. Around the middle to late July, give them another dose. When the branches reach 6 inches high, cut or pinch about an inch off the end. This will give you a bushy and rounded plant. Do this until July 10 and then let them naturally branch out and blossom. If they become overcrowded, divide them in the early spring, when they first show signs of growth.