By Naomi Mathews
It has been said that when chrysanthemums start to bloom in flower gardens it's a sure sign of the arrival of fall. So -- if you see that the sweltering heat of summer has taken its toll on the cheerful annuals you planted in your containers in early spring, don't despair!
Consider replanting those withering annuals in your containers with a selection of colorful chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums -- commonly called "mums" -- can brighten your patio, balcony, steps, or entryway with color from the dog days of summer through late fall in most temperate regions. Mums can be found in garden centers and nurseries as early as mid-August in most areas.
The primary colors of mums are bronze, orange, red, yellow, pink, white, purple, and lavender. However, because mums have been so extremely hybridized over the years, you now have a dazzling array of myriad hues of colors from which to choose.
The deep green fine-textured foliage of mums is remarkably aromatic, lending a distinctive ambience to the containers in which they are planted. Although the shapes of mums vary depending on their species, they usually have stems sporting multi-branches with alternate leaves. Mums can range from a mere six inches tall to around four feet in height. Some very popular varieties of mums boast spreading cushions while others grow tall and upright.
Some interesting flower forms of mums you can plant include those called buttons, spiders, pompoms, daisy-like, spoons, anemone, singles, doubles, and semi-doubles. The colorful, long-lasting blossoms of this wide variety of mums range from one to six inches across. Any or all of these forms will provide you with a fabulous fall display when planted in containers. They require only minimal care in exchange for their showstopping display of color.
A Bit of Interesting "Mum" History
It was way back in the year 1798 that chrysanthemums were first introduced to North America from Europe. After the official Chrysanthemum Society of America was founded, their first exhibition of mums was held in 1902. Research shows that mums were prevalent at least 2,500 years ago, and that mum festivals are still celebrated every fall in Japan. A chrysanthemum festival highlighting the arts and culture of Japan was held at the famous Longwood Gardens near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1999. Longwood's gardeners grew and trained more than 20,000 mums inside this spectacular conservatory. During that festival, Japanese artisans demonstrated the art of making life-size dolls using the chrysanthemums grown in the Longwood conservatory. It is also notable that of more than 160 different species of mums, most of them are native to China, Japan, and Europe.
Tips for Planting Mums in Containers for Fall Color
When selecting mums for your fall containers, choose only plants that have healthy green foliage and are without signs of insect or disease damage. If possible, you may also want to check the root systems of the plants before purchasing them. Also make sure the plants you select are not wilted, as this is a sign they haven't been properly watered and may not survive very long. Mums are thirsty little fellows and should not be allowed to dry out in containers.
Choose plants with tight unopened flower buds, as this will assure you of longer bloom times from each plant. Lastly, make sure that the proper plant label accompanies each plant you select to make sure you get the variety and color you want.
If you plan to use the same containers in which your spring or summer annuals were planted, first make sure that those plants were disease free. Should you see any signs of disease or noxious insects in the soil, empty the containers completely and wash them thoroughly with antibacterial soap before refilling with new potting soil. If the soil appears free of disease or insects, work the soil thoroughly with a small garden spade, adding additional potting soil as needed.
The size of your containers will largely determine how many mums to plant in each one. When planting several in one large container, you can mix and match colors or plant several mums of the same color together to make a bold display. Think of yourself as an artist splashing harmonious colors on a fresh canvas, creating a stunning fall landscape of dazzling potted mums.
This 32-page booklet is part of Storey Publishing's Country Wisdom series. In this informative booklet you'll learn:
- How to select containers
- How to choose a good potting mix or make your own.
- How to plant and care for your container gardens.
- How to create beautiful hanging baskets and windowboxes.
- Which plants are best for containers.
- And more!
After they are planted in containers, mums are very easy to care for, especially during the fall. Keep them moist by watering regularly and make sure they have adequate drainage. Mums don't like to have their feet sit in water or they may develop stem rot, and neither do they like to get completely dried out as this stresses them to the point of dying. Watch for signs of aphids, spider mites, or powdery mildew. Such problems can occur, but nipping them in the bud with appropriate control measures is very effective. When in doubt about which substances to safely use, check with your local extension office or a reliable nursery person.
Although many chrysanthemums are perennials, those planted in containers in colder climates will need to be replanted in the ground before winter sets in to prevent them from freezing. You can also bring them indoors or store them in a sheltered place until the following spring.
Another option versus planting some fall mums is to leave them in their nursery pots and simply place them in a large wicker basket or other container of your choice. Set them in a sunny or partly sunny location, and water each plant enough to prevent them from drying out. Before winter arrives, remove the plants from their nursery pots and plant them in the ground in a sheltered spot. After the ground has frozen, cover the plants with a good mulch of leaves, compost, or bark to prevent their roots from freezing during winter's icy grip.
Remember, when the lazy days of late summer and early fall start to slip away, you don't have to do without cheerful blooming flowers, for chrysanthemums are well-known as the colorful queens of fall-blooming flowers. It's not too soon to make a trip to your favorite nursery or garden center to select a variety of eyecatching mums to replace those fast-fading flowers of spring. You'll be delighted with the results of your creative artistic efforts!