One of the last hurrahs of the garden is hardy mums. They bloom in a wide range of colors. They come in a variety of sizes. They bloom from the plains to the mountains. And they’re simple to maintain.
Hardy mums prefer full sun. But they do fine in gardens that get four to six hours of sun a day. In too much shade, they grow leggy and floppy.
Like many perennials, mums like a lot of organic matter and good drainage. But they’re adaptable. Drainage is their biggest issue. Mums will die if their root zone is wet all of the time. Let them dry out but try not to let young mums wilt.
Plant mums any time in late summer or early fall. Don’t fertilize them in the fall. Use rich compost or a general purpose fertilizer in the spring. Plant mums a foot to eighteen inches apart. For the brightest show, blend their wide variety of flower types and colors.
Pinch the plants in the summer to create bushy plants with a lot of flowers. When the plants are four to six inches tall pinch an inch or two off of each stem. Let them grow another four or six inches then pinch them again. It’s a monthly process. And if you don’t get it done the mums will be fine. They just won’t have as many flowers.
Like most perennials, mums benefit from a layer of mulch during the winter. Cover them with three or four inches of loose mulch after the ground freezes. The mulch keeps the ground frozen. Generally, plants don’t like the freeze and thaw cycle our soils experience during the winter.
Mums are great container plant around townhouses or apartments. After the first hard frost, water containerized mums well. Put them in a shady spot on the north side of a building. After the soil freezes, cover the container with mulch.
Next spring transplant the mum in the next size bigger container. Keep it moist. Pinch it back once a month. And wait for the fall flower show.
Originally published on September 23rd, 2011.