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Mums – A Hot Take!

Mums – A Hot Take!

Mums signal fall in a big way at Groovy Plants Ranch and along with their arrival we get tons of questions. Questions like “When is the best time to plant them?” We also hear: “Can they grow in the shade? Will they come back next year? Or how can I make blooms last longer?” Let’s walk through this Mum FAQ and sprinkle in some fun facts along the way.

When is a good time to plant mums?

September is a perfect time to plant garden mums. And we are fully stocked with miles of these fall beauties. In fact, our industry grows millions each fall to dress up front porches, refresh landscape beds and update summer pots.

How do mums have so many blooms?

Last we counted, one of our large mums was loaded with 200+ blooms – quite a value for $13 especially considering all the work that goes into making these showstopping plants. Indulge us for a quick behind-the-scenes walk through the mum production process. First, top-performing cultivars are developed by breeders for optimum flower size, color and plant shape. Next, growers pot up cuttings of these proven varieties each spring to ensure a bounty of full plants by fall. They strategically cut back early foliage to encourage branching and more flowers. By early summer, they up pot them into larger pots and pinch back flower buds to delay blooms until fall. By late August and early September, mums are loaded with fresh buds and ready for customers to buy and enjoy at home.

Can they grow in the shade?

We recommend planting mums in a SUNNY location (at least six hours) for maximum blooms. Yes, they can tolerate part sun but won’t thrive in shade. Here, you’ll find their blooms won’t be as abundant, and their stems may grow leggy.

How can I make blooms last longer into fall?

To make mums flower longer, try these three tips.  First, resist the temptation to buy plants with fully open flowers. Instead, look for plants with plenty of buds that are just “cracking color.”  Second, be sure to keep plants watered, and don’t let them dry out between waterings that quickly zaps their blooms. Third, protect blooms from extreme temperatures. In the super-hot days of late summer, move pots to a location with afternoon shade. Later into the fall as frost warnings approach, protect blooms overnight with an old bed sheet or temporarily move pots indoors. Finally, deadhead spent blooms to keep plants looking fresh for weeks.

Will mums come back next year?

Garden mums can return for another season . . . if you’re up for the hassle. At our own homes, we find it’s simpler to treat them like annuals and buy new ones each fall. Here’s why. It takes a lot of effort to get garden mums to repeat the same fabulous show each fall. First, they need to be planted in the ground before October 1. Next, you need to cross your fingers that the newly planted mums won’t heave (push out of the ground as the soil freezes and thaws) their first winter since their young roots haven’t fully established.  If the mums survive the winter, they will then need fertilized, cutback and disbudded at key times through the spring and summer. Otherwise you’ll end up with these giant blobs that will take over other plants in your perennial bed or devour half of your porch and bloom sparsely in August. If you’re still up for this challenge, go for it. But if you’re like us, enjoy mums’ colorful blooms for a season then toss them like annual petunias or marigolds.

What are some long-lasting alternatives to fall garden mums?

For perennial fans, there are several stunning fall perennials to combine with “annual” mums. Our favorite flowering fall perennials include asters, coreopsis, black-eyed Susans, echinacea, anemones, and stonecrop sedums to name a few. For perennials with colorful fall foliage, try coral bells, ornamental grasses, ferns, amsonia and barrenwort.

Ready to learn more about mums?

Mums have been around for centuries. They were first cultivated in 15th century BCE in China as a culinary herb. The botanical name Chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek word “chryos” meaning gold and “anthemon” meaning flower. Chrysanthemums belong to the Asteraceae or daisy family. Today, the National Chrysanthemum Society identifies 13 classifications of mums, including garden mums. Check out the society’s collection of educational videos on propagating mums, pruning mums and even growing mums for show. Finally, join in celebrating mums this fall with festivals and displays at Meijer Gardens (Grand Rapids, MI), the Barberton Mum Festival (Barberton, OH), Niagara Parks (Niagara Falls, Ontario) and Longwood Gardens (Kennet Square, PA) with its incredible 1000-bloom chrysanthemum.

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