‘Mums’ the word

Horticulture Hints

A not so “secret” plant which serves as a great addition to the fall garden, is the chrysanthemum. Available in a wide array of color, form and sizes, hardy mums provide a splash of color to brighten an otherwise browning Iowa autumn landscape.

Hardy garden mums are available as perennial plants that are best planted out in early spring. As mums have a shallow, fibrous root system, a spring planting allows these plants to grow and their roots to become well established before winter. Mum plants require a well-drained soil and a full sun location to perform at their best. If planted in a wet site, the plant roots will be prone to winter kill. A shady planting site will produce leggy plant growth with less blooms. Mums plants also need regular watering during the growing season, as lack of moisture can cause stress and a reduction in the number of flowers on the plant.

Additionally, mums grown as container plants are a popular purchase easily found this time of year for sale at area garden centers and pumpkin patches. However, potted chrysanthemums grown in a greenhouse are typically considered annual plants, as when transplanted outside in the fall, will have a limited winter survival rate in Iowa. A mulch application after the ground has frozen, will help to prevent winter kill damage if you wish to try experimenting with planting out a florist grown plant.

For best results, look for chrysanthemum cultivars that are winter hardy, make spring plantings in sites receiving full sun with drainage, and provide water as needed throughout season.

Did you know? Hardy garden mums require pinching back to encourage compact, bushier plants with side branches for more flowers. Usually two pinches are needed – first pinch back about 1 inch on stems when plants are 6 inches tall, using fingernails or pruners. Then make a second pinch to new growth stems before early July. A later pinching will not give the plant adequate time to produce the growth needed for maximum flowering in Iowa gardens.

Questions? Contact McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu for information or advice.