Fall planting: Mum’s the word

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Updated Sep 7, 2023
Hardy mums are commonly used in fall decorations. Photo: PixabayHardy mums are commonly used in fall decorations.
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When it comes to getting your customer’s garden ready for fall, “mum’s the word.”

Chrysanthemums, also known as mums, are one of the most popular types of fall flowers, and this time of year it’s hard to go three steps without seeing them all around.

Mums come in a wide variety of colors, bloom shapes, and hardy cultivars that are sure to fit the fancy of most of your customers. The blooms can last for weeks, and the number of flowers per plant is a clear indication that these little guys like showing off.

Mums constitute a wide variety of plants, such as the painted daisy, the Shasta daisy, and the hardy mum. Hardy mums come in a variety of colors that form in the fall, and they serve as a great replacement for the annuals your customers loved in the spring.

Why choose mums?

No matter what kind of landscape or decorations your customers enjoy, mums can fit into any décor.

Mums boast tight, mounded habits and stunning bloom covers, which makes them perfect for mass plantings. To get the best effect, stick with only one to two colors in the bunch.

For a more eye-catching arrangement, consider planting them in a gradual transition of related colors, and check what colors will blend well with the surrounding landscape.

For customers who enjoy decorating for fall with gourds and pumpkins, add in some creamy white, yellow, orange, and bronze mums. For customers who have a fair amount of evergreen plants, add in a few pops of color with pinks, pure whites, reds, and lavenders.

To get the most out of the mum experience, choose cultivars according to their bloom times. It will also help if you remember to coordinate bloom time with the length of fall in your area. Most garden mums can withstand the light frost of fall, but choosing the right cultivars can give your customers the most time with their mums.

Hardy versus florist mums

When it comes to choosing which mums to use, garden mums are the best for landscaping purposes if you want them to last longer. Hardy mums are also known as garden mums, and florist mums are also known as cutting mums.

Florist mums will produce larger flowers, but they produce few, if any, underground stolons. Stolens are necessary for mums to survive cold weather, and florist mums that are planted outside are most likely used for short–term bedding plants.

Garden mums do produce underground stolons and are therefore able to survive the winter better. Most garden mums are perennials and tend to be more tough than the florist variety.

Planting mums

Once the perfect mums are chosen, it’s time to plant them. The best time to plant mums is immediately after purchasing them. Planting early, even as early as August, helps the plants develop a strong root system.

When planting, keep in mind that mums will need to be planted in an area that receives at least six hours of sun a day. They also thrive in well-drained soil.

If garden mums are planted too late, the winter freeze-thaw cycles can push plants out of the soil, which is a condition known as frost heave. If the mums aren’t planted early enough, they will not have enough time to grow strong enough roots, and shallow-rooted garden mums won’t have a high chance of sticking around.

Once they are properly planted, be sure to keep them watered throughout the fall. Adding mulch over the roots at planting time is also a good idea. Once the soil has frozen over, add in another layer of mulch around the base of the mums to help keep the soil insulated and prevent frost heave.

Chopped leaves and shredded bark both serve as excellent sources of mulch. For more mulching options, click here.

Garden mums also make excellent container plants, and they add just the right amount of color to a deck, patio, porch, or stairway.

As winter approaches, continue to keep the soil around the mums moist. Until the following spring, there’s no need to prune back the plants and be sure to mulch plants with straw or evergreen branches after they’ve experienced several hard frosts.

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