Chrysanthemums, or outdoor garden mums, are a great way to extend the growing season into the cooler fall months here in Central, NY.
By now the summer annual and perennial flowers are winding down and fading away, but with fall mums just starting show their color, our gardens can be revitalized with brilliant arrays of orange, yellow, red, purple, bronze, pink and white.
Mums are great for fall dÃ©cor because of their versatility. They can be planted in your perennial garden, dropped into a clay pot or added to a mixed planter with fall grasses and trailing plants. They can also be planted in hanging baskets. Mums are compact but loaded with hundreds of blooms so they can provide a huge impact of color in a small area.
Plant the mum in a sunny location with well drained, fertile soil. Water it in well and water when necessary to keep it from wilting. No need to fertilize. A mum planted in the fall may or may not survive the winter, since most of the growing energy goes into producing the flowers instead of the roots. If the mum was planted in the spring, the roots would have been established to sustain it through our harsh winters. Planting early in the season, dead heading the old blooms, and mulching around the plant after the ground freezes will increase the chance of survival. Although it is not guaranteed, many fall planted mums will come back in the spring.
Purchase a mum with tight buds and it will last for weeks to finish out your gardening season. Mums will survive light frosts. The cooler the weather, the longer the mum flowers will stay fresh.
Mums are available from late August and into October.
UPDATE: As enjoyable as our extended summers have been in Upstate New York, there are considerable adjustments to be made in your gardening schedule with first-frost dates seemingly being pushed out further and further into the fall.
Mums may be commercially available at larger big-box stores, keeping time with retail schedules, however consumers should be aware of the care required for upkeep of early season plants.
In order to produce flowers during long, hot, late-summer days, mums must be covered from 6PM to 6AM with an opaque black cloth (landscape fabric should work just fine) in order to simulate seasonal daylight time and temperature changes.
This signals to the plants that it is time to produce buds and therefore delays flowering. If special care is not taken to help the mums into season, they will open prematurely and die off before autumn arrives!
If this sounds like a lot of work, just hold off on buying your mums until the nights get a bit longer and chillier. The stock at bigger box stores might be picked over, but you can rely on smaller, local stores to have quality offerings when its more regionally appropriate.