Mums the Word!

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Nothing screams fall like the vivid autumn colors of mums. Mums offer a variety of color with minimum care. Their rich color display often lasts until the first frost.

Mums are no longer called “hardy mums” since mum cultivars vary in hardiness from season to season and based on environmental conditions. Instead of being called hardy mums, these types of fall-blooming mums are called “garden mums”.

Yellow MumIf you stop at any garden supply store now, you will see mums for sale. Many people treat mums as an annual in pots or in the garden for fall color. However, many varieties are hardy, especially if you mound soil and mulch over them in the late fall. You can plant mums in the spring or in the fall.

Be sure to plant mums in an area with full sun. If planted in the shade, mums will tend to get leggy and will not flower exceptionally well. Also, be sure to provide ample water while mums are blooming. As always, try to water in the morning to allow water to dry off before the cool evenings. This will help prevent fungal diseases.

If you plant mums in the spring or treat them as perennials, you will need to pinch back new growth to form dense plants with numerous blooms. Pinch new growth back from the top about ½ to 1 inch approximately every 4 weeks after the plant is 6 inches tall until early to mid July. Do not pinch plants after this time, as you will be removing flower buds! You can time fertilizer applications with your pinching routine. Perennial mums will spread rapidly and will need division every few years.

Mums are available in a number of different colors. According to Yoder, a leading mum producer, yellow is the most popular color on the market. Other popular colors include pink, lavender, white, bronze, red, coral, salmon, and orange. Mums also come in different flower shapes and arrangement of petals. Daisies or singles have daisy-like flowers with yellow centers. Anemones have long petals with a center of deeper colored short petals. Pompom mums have small ball-shaped flowers on short plants. Spider mums have petals that are long and tubular with curled ends. The name cushion mum refers to a mum that flowers early and is low and bushy.

With the wide variety of color and form, there is a mum out there for everyone. Also, if you are looking for a personalized gift, many mum cultivars are named for women (such as ‘Diane’ or ‘Linda’). For more information on growing mums, refer to HGIC 1161: Chrysanthemum or contact our Center at 919-775-5624.

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.