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At Home: Make the most of your fall mums
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At Home: Make the most of your fall mums

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Colorful chrysanthemum plants seemingly bursting with blooms are hard to resist in the fall.

It seems you see them everywhere. There’s a good chance you will break down and buy couple to decorate your front porch.

They come in a wide variety of colors, and few plants fill a pot with such a massive number of flowers.

Here are some mum facts and gardening tips compiled from past Tulsa World columns to help you make the most of your mums.

Mum origins

Chrysanthemums are native to China, where they have been prized for more than 2,000 years. The name “chrysanthemum” comes from the Greek words for gold (chrysos) and flower (anthos). Modern garden mums come in a huge selection of colors, shapes and sizes.

Planting potted mums

Many of the mums you might find for purchase this year have been forced into blooming for the season. This process makes introducing them into your garden more challenging. Some are also bred specifically for pots and are likely not as hardy as the mums you see in gardens. These potted mums may have an extensive root system in the pot, but they may not be able to establish themselves before winter.

This doesn’t mean you can’t try. But be prepared to enjoy them for the season and move on.

Picking your plant

Select bushy plants with plenty of leafy stems branching out at the base. Also, select plants that are well-budded but not yet in full flower. Winter survival tends to be better when plants are not in full bloom at planting time.

Planting tips

If you do try to plant mums, plant them in sunny, well-drained locations with good air circulation. Mums need at least 5 to 6 hours of direct daily sunlight for maximum flowering.

Mulching and feeding mums

Dormant mums mulched with 4 to 6 inches of chopped leaves or straw after the ground is frozen have the best chance to live through hard winters or winters in which the soil constantly thaws and refreezes, say horticulturists.

Mums are notorious feeders and require an abundance of plant food to attain their maximum development. Most gardening authorities advise incorporating liberal amounts of manure or compost in the soil, along with peat moss and shredded leaves.

Spring planting

Mums planted in the spring are more likely to overwinter better than those planted in the fall. Extreme cold, heaved roots, inadequate drainage and the absence of a thick organic mulch all could contribute to their demise. Set the plants 12 to 18 inches apart in holes no deeper than the pots they came in. Mums make their maximum growth during hot weather, and throughout this period they require a liberal supply of water.

Pinching back

Pinching greatly encourages bud formation and massive blooms and has to be done to keep the plant compact and bushy. You should remove the top one inch when growth reaches four to five inches and continue to pinch back this way most of the summer, usually until Aug. 1. For really large flowers, allow only a few blooms per plant to develop.

Dividing

Unlike many flowering plants, mums like to be divided every year. If left undisturbed from year to year the quality of the mum diminishes, horticulturists say.

Where to find mums

Chances are, mums will find you! They are everywhere in the fall. Besides your local nursery, you can also find them at pumpkin patches, farmers markets, grocery stores and flower shops.


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