Mums seem to be the face of the fall season. Every grocery store or garden center you walk in to between August and October you are greeted by the sphere-shaped autumn colored flowers.
We tend to treat mums as if they are annuals, throwing them away at the end of the season and buying new at the beginning. However, did you know mums are actually perennials?
Garden mums are very hardy in Zones 5-9, (here in Indiana we are a proud Zone 5.) If you put in some extra TLC this fall, you could see them again this time next year. It’s not the easiest feat, but sure is a good challenge!
Early planting is the first step when it comes to utilizing your mums as perennials. As soon as you buy your mums for the fall season- get them in the ground. Ideally mums are planted in the spring, but it’s nearly impossible to find mums in April, so getting your mums in the ground early this fall is your best bet. Garden mums have a shallow-root system and need to be established in the ground as soon as possible in order to be strong enough to survive over winter.
The second step is ensuring good drainage for your mums. Be careful not to over or under water these guys as their roots are sensitive. When picking a spot, select a sunny part of the yard to plant the mums. Mums love sun and will produce more flowers if they get at least six hours of sun a day, if not they may get a little floppy. Add a layer of mulch to the soil to help maintain the moisture and insulate those fragile roots. This will also come in handy come winter.
Tip: Try using fertilizer with high-phosphorus in the fall to give extra nutrients to your mums.
Speaking of, preparing mums for the winter months is vital – again not impossible though! One way you can protect the flowers is don’t trim any stems at the end of their bloom cycle. The stems will help protect the crown in the months to come. Another important step in protecting the plant is to pile 3-4” of mulch over the entire plant in order to create a ‘shelter’ for the mums.
Come spring time, you are free to remove the mulch. This is also the time to fertilize and start watering again.
Since mums are intended to bloom in the summer, you will start to see your mums flop over by the end of July. In order to prolong the blooms- Pat suggests you pinch off the tops around the head through the summer until July Fourth– that way in a month or so you can enjoy your mums when everyone else is out buying theirs.
There is a reason we treat mums as if they are annuals, but don’t let that stop you. Impress your friends, yourself, and heck even us, by taking your mums back to their roots (pun intended) and taking advantage of their perennial side!
Join us LIVE every Saturday, 9am-1pm, right here on WIBC