Bursting with colorful life, chrysanthemums — affectionately called "mums" — are a wonderful addition to your autumn garden. Coming in hundreds of shapes and varieties, they put on a spectacular display.
Mums do well in both pots and in the ground. However, many people choose perennial options to keep the beauty going year after year with minimal legwork. Either way, consider chrysanthemum for this year's garden.
Though it's possible to germinate chrysanthemums from seed, for beginners, there's a lot involved. It's easier to get your plants from a nursery, then keep them moist and in a well-lit indoor area until spring has fully sprung.
If you have limited space and want to put chrysanthemums in pots, they'll do well. But they'll willingly flourish in a garden if you're good to them. Optimally, get your mums into the ground as soon as the weather permits to ensure they'll grow to their full potential. They need to establish a sturdy root system in the early months.
Once the threat of frost passes in the spring, it's time to get started. Try to plant your mums in loamy soil. Even though they're troopers and can withstand a lot, providing an ideal environment with moist soil and drainage will give you the best results.
Dig your holes around 8 to 12 inches deep, leaving plenty of space between each plant. Though they may look sparse now, they'll eventually fill out and grow several feet tall.
Chrysanthemums require about six hours of solid sunlight per day. More is even better, as long as they're in an area where they won't scorch. These plants rely on the sun for their growing cues, so it's important they have as much proper exposure as possible.
Only when they sense the earlier sunsets later in the season will they set buds. If they don't experience ideal conditions, they won't flower to their full potential.
Mums love water. Even, consistent moisture in the spring, summer, and autumn is absolutely necessary. It's best to water your plants in the early morning, and make sure to hit the root system. Apply water directly to the soil so the thick leaves don't trap it. Soaker hoses work well with chrysanthemums, too, making proper watering a breeze.
Chrysanthemums are relatively low maintenance, so don't go overboard with nutrients. When planting, mixing organic material into the soil is fine. Throughout the season, it's okay to use a water-soluble fertilizer monthly.
Once your plants begin to blossom, stop all fertilization — the critical growth timeframe is over. Late-season fertilizing can actually harm perennials and prevent next year's return.
Chrysanthemums are often referred to as "hardy mums." This is because they'll hold up in colder climates. Zones 5 through 9 are ideal for them, with some varieties able to go down to Zone 3 — as far north as North Dakota.
Usually, local nurseries will sell specific zone-friendly varieties, but make sure to always check their designation before purchasing.
Remove any bad leaves prior to planting. Once you see evidence of increased growth, pinch out the plant: remove about an inch from the top to encourage bushing out with side shoots. When the mum starts to bud, cut back the side shoots to shift growth primarily to the main stems. This will result in better flowers.
Once the flowers bloom, deadhead old growth to promote longevity. But to prepare for winter, you don't have to take any additional measures except for adding a few inches of loose straw or mulch for insulation.
Perennial chrysanthemums will grow back stronger next year if they naturally die back. Leave them alone, or cut them back only minimally. Wait until spring to clean up the remaining dead leaves and stems.
Mums are easy to propagate, and using basal stem cuttings is your best bet. Once chutes pop up from the ground and establish themselves a few inches above the soil, use a sterile knife for harvesting. Remove all but the top few leaves, and cut the bottoms once again.
Plant them in a pot of cutting compost covered with plastic and keep an eye on them until you see strong evidence of growth. At this point, you can plant them.
With the right growing conditions, mums have less susceptibility to disease. However, it can still occur. Fungal issues are the primary concern, with white and brown rust taking center stage.
These diseases tend to creep up during the blooming season in the form of spots and pustules on the leaves. Remove these leaves and treat the plant with a fungicide. Don't just rely on the end of the season to kill it off — rust can survive the winter in the rootstock.
When it comes to pests, chrysanthemum aphids should be your biggest concern. They reproduce quickly, but they also have some natural predators, like ladybugs. Allow these enemies to do their work, but if things get out of control, use a naturally based pesticide, as harsh insecticides will also kill your helpers.
Spider mites and leafminer flies are other mum foes. To curtail their activity, prune away the infested areas and use an organic insecticide.
Good things come to those who wait. You aren't going to have blossoms until late in the growing season, so to prevent nothing but greenery until then (unless that's your style), consider mixing your mums with other flowers; just be mindful of spacing.
Chrysanthemums look fantastic in perennial cutting gardens designed to have blooms throughout the spring, summer, and autumn.
Some varieties of chrysanthemums are confused for daisies, which are in the same family, due to their similar appearance.
A more potentially problematic mixup is mugwort. This invasive weed has very similar foliage to mums. In the early stages of the growing season, before the latter flowers, it's hard for many people to tell them apart. If mugwort is an issue in your region, it's best to learn the subtle differences so you can spot the interloper and dig it out of your garden as soon as possible.
Mums contain pyrethrins, which are mildly toxic to pets, so keep your fur babies away. As for humans, there appears to be some conflicting information about whether the flower heads are toxic. Chrysanthemum tea is a popular beverage in some parts of the world, but it may be best to purchase these teas rather than make them from your garden.
Do your research and, if you do decide to try these flowers in drinks or salads, start small just in case they disagree with you.
Chrysanthemums are in the Compositae or Asteraceae family. Related to sunflowers and chamomile, mums branch off into many varieties. Popular types include pompon, kimie, domingo, king's ransom, crimson black pot, whiteout, and lava.
Planting a range of subspecies will grant your yard amazing texture and color, for a brilliant effect in your autumn garden.