Mums the Word: Chrysanthemums Are the Banner of Fall

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

If you stop at any garden supply store in September and October, 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 plant them in the ground and mulch them appropriately in the late fall. You can plant mums in the spring or in the fall.

The mums available in local stores in North Carolina aren’t always hardy though. Some cultivars vary in hardiness from season to season and based on environmental conditions. It is more practical to think of them simply as “Garden mums” and be pleasantly surprised when they stick around to flower next year.

Be sure to plant mums in an area with full sun and well-draining soil, otherwise they will be prone to diseases. If planted in the shade, mums will tend to get leggy and will not flower 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.

It takes some extra work to get a dense habit and large blooms on your Chrysanthemums. You will need to pinch back new growth (around June or July) 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.

Yellow MumMums are available in a number of different colors. Popular colors include yellow, pink, lavender, white, bronze, red, coral, salmon, and orange.

Mums also come in different flower shapes and arrangements of petals. Daisies or singles have daisy-like flowers with yellow centers. Anemone types have long petals with a center of deeper colored short petals. Pom Pom 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 colors and forms, there is a mum out there for everyone. There are nurseries you can find online to buy your own mum plants and the local Central Carolina Chrysanthemum Society can provide a social element to cultivating these beauties.

For more information on growing mums, refer to HGIC 1161: Chrysanthemum or contact our Center at 919-775-5624.

Amanda Wilkins is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.