Now that fall is officially here, it’s time to think about chrysanthemums. Every year, right around football time, mums make their appearance in nurseries, garden departments and grocery stores. These are some of the longest-lasting cut flowers, and if kept moist but not soggy, potted mums can last for weeks indoors and look wonderful.
Appearance: Mums have dark-green, deeply lobed and aromatic leaves with soft grey undersides. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, from dark burgundy, bronzes and oranges, to lavenders, light pastel pinks and whites. These hardy perennials make great container plants, are easy to grow, evergreen through winter and bloom prolifically. All bloom when nights become longer, in late summer or fall, and many cultivars flower in spring as well. Some are low-growing and some reach up to 5 feet tall.
Culture: Mums prefer slightly acidic soil with organic components and moderate moisture, but they will grow in less than ideal conditions. Pinch back new growth throughout the spring and summer to produce a broader plant with more branching. For really big blooms, eliminate side buds to allow a larger terminal flower to develop. Flowers will be lovely without such pinching, but there will simply be more flowers rather than bigger ones if you do pinch.
Divide or thin plants, preferably in the spring before rapid growth begins or in the fall after blooming. Chrysanthemums are relatively disease and pest free, although they may be attacked by spider mites in hot, dry weather. If conditions are dry, keep watered, especially if the plant is potted or in bud.
Mums in the ground are fairly drought-tolerant once established. However, fungal leaf spot can be a problem if plants are crowded and get poor air circulation.