Friday, September 4, 2009

'Tis the Season for Mums!

Every fall it happens, mums (Chrysanthemums) galore appear in the box stores and nurseries. It's a tradition that rings in autumn like college football, corn mazes, and garden blogger fall color projects (OK maybe not the last one, at least not yet!). But what do you look for when you buy your mums in the store? A full bushy plant loaded with flowers or the newly budded beauty about to burst with blooms? And what do you do after autumn with your mums? Roadside trash can?


There are two schools of thought on the purchase of mums. The first school says to buy the mums while they are still in buds to maximize the bloom time in your garden. The second school is for those looking for an immediate impact in pots and other places. Those students who attend the second school look for bushy plants with blooms already open. I prefer the first school to the second but if you need to brighten up a church picnic then go for the mums already in bloom.

After your blooms have faded what now? Save the mums! Here in Tennessee our mild winters enable the mums to come back each year. The red mums in the picture above began blooming about a week ago but were originally planted in 2007. Keeping the mums is very simple. Don't cut the foliage back until new growth begins in the spring. Once new growth appears you can either let it go for a leggy and less traditional mum looking appearance or you can prune it back once in spring and once the first week of July for it to bloom in September. If you had your mums potted in pretty planters then you can transplant them somewhere into the garden to preserve them for next year. Mums left in pots probably won't make it since the outside air temperature will be much colder than the ground temperature during the winter.

Do me one favor, don't ever throw your mums in the trash can! After the blooms have faded mums seem to join all other forms of waste by the roadside for the garbage man to pick up. There is no reason for mums to end up in the landfill. If you don't want to save them for next year compost them or give them to friends who might want them. Adding unnecessary material to the landfills is a huge waste of space better served for other materials.  Everyone should own a compost bin even if they don't garden!

"Save the mums" doesn't sound quite like "save the whales" but to me saving money definitely sounds good! I haven't bought a mum this year or last since mine have returned faithfully each year.

And guess what? I did this whole post without the typical cliche mum phrases like "Mums the word!" Oops, I think I just messed that one up!

19 comments :

  1. Ah! You totally beat me to a post on the invasion of mums season! I agree, people, stop the mum slaughter! *sigh* I will be planting the whole block's chucked out mums again this year won't I? BTW, you can use the plant to make pyrethrum, the natural insecticide (http://www.livingwithbugs.com/permethrin_pyrethrum.html)

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  2. I think lots of people like mums. I hate to admit it aloud, so I'll just whisper... I don't like them at all. I don't know why. I do appreciate your post, though. (I don't approve of the waste, either.)

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  3. Is there anything that we can do here to keep them coming back or are ours destine for the compost pile? We are zone 5a. I was considering replacing my inpatients with mums in my hanging baskets for fall.

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  4. Our Mums always come back with vigor! Please come by and see the birth of the Monarch!!

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  5. of course that was supposed to be "impatiens", got to love the spell check sometimes!

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  6. Sunita,

    Yep I avoided that one too! No ABBA here!

    Persephone,

    Block of mums sounds nice but an alternative I like are the asters. Great tip on the pyrethrum.

    Shady,

    You don't have to like everything! I like the fact that they five some fall color but like everything they can be overdone.

    Chris,

    Your zone would be borderline for returning mums but I would give it a try. Cover the base of the plant with a good layer of mulch this fall. You could even try the old milk jug greenhouse technique if you don't mind looking at milk jugs in the ground all winter, of course there where you live they will probably be covered with snow!

    Darla,

    That monarch birth was very cool!

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  7. Dear Dave (here I am again .. wink wink )Mums are such a tradition here in Kingston .. so many front steps are decorated with a mix of mums, pumpkins, ornamental grasses, cabbage and kale collections .. corn .. well you can see we Canadians can go over the top with Autumn (especially me ?) I bought my BIG grass and mum display from Costco .. mums that are tightly closed but with a few opened so I can see what colour I am getting .. yet most closed so it will last longer .. that is my school of thought !
    I also have mums in the garden that will be opening soon too .. I am a mum addict and I admit it publicly ? LOL

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  8. I like mums too! They are such reliable performers when all else is getting tired. Great post~

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  9. More good tips Dave. Unfortunately I forgot to move my Mums out of the planters this past fall & they didn't return this year. But the ones I put in the garden just keep coming back year after year. No use wasting money every fall. :)

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  10. Dave, what great color those mums are! That's one of my favorites, for sure. I did a post with suggestions for more success at overwintering mums in the garden last October that might have some use for some of your readers: The Secret of Hardy Mums.
    Honestly, since I paid attention to the drainage issue, I've not lost a single one. Of course, I've only got one winter of doing that under my belt, but last year's winter was brutally cold, so it probably was a good "test" year.
    I'm a huge fan of fall asters, too. When the garden is looking a little forlorn, both mums and asters perk it up with fabulous color, don't they?

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  11. We'll be mummin up around here soon. My wife is the mummy. (That didn't sound right.)

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  12. Love those mums Dave. I have several colors & most survived the winter last. Most I have in pots. I just sit them up under the Lugustrum hedge for protection. It worked.

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  13. Love the picture Dave! If we plant Mums here in the spring or summer, they'll come back year after year; but if we plant them in late summer early fall, they won't survive our winters. I love to keep them in the garden and go into full blossom each year. I generally buy mine without any buds and have the summer to strengthen themselves.

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  14. I do love mums and have a lot at my house. And in Tennessee--you are right--they come back year after year!

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  15. Hello there! I'd probably buy the one with nice blooms already.

    And amen to composting mums and all organic stuff in the house.

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  16. Hi!

    I LOVE your site. You've opened up my eyes (and closed my wallet) to a whole new world of free plants. I have a new house and have spent $$$ last year on plants. Now, I am making new beds and will be deliciously awaiting new plants from propagation.

    I am a total newbie, having only rooting mint (which will live through anything if I can root it). I have some mums I left out in their plastic containers over the winter in zone 8a and was very very surprised that they came back because I thought they were just annuals having only seen them in the fall. I left out some other pots, too, because I was too lazy to do my fall cleaning up. I think this has worked out to my advantage because a lot of those expensive plants came back that I had no idea were perennials.

    Anyways, my mums have some nice new mounded growth on them now. I have a few newbie questions:
    When should I prune them back? Also, this is a silly question, but how do I prune them back? Like by pinching back every since one of the tips?
    When I prune them back, do I have to cut 3-5 inches from them to root them?
    Do you like the look of leggy taller mums or do they look strange with fewer sparse blooms if they're not pruned?

    Sorry for all the questions. I really don't have a natural gardening talent like you!

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  17. Hi Sherry!

    It's very easy to spend money on plants - have to watch myself closely sometimes. With the mums if you want the round full mum look pinch them back twice with the second time in early to mid July. The first time should probably be around May - or whenever they need it. If you want to root them just cut a 3 inch stem tip dip it in rooting hormone then put it in your moist medium.

    I like the leggy mums sometimes when mixed with other plants but usually I do the pinching thing. You are more than welcome to ask questions so don't apologize!

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