Garden mums provide unparalleled color in the fall months. Mums are photo-tropic, their life cycle is greatly affected by day length. When the days slowly become shorter in the fall, the Mum is triggered into developing flower buds.
Originally from China this beautiful plant has been cultivated for over 2,500 years. The first cultivars reached Europe in the 1600's and there are now over 5,000 varieties!
They bloom in almost every color except blue. Hybridization has produced many flower forms such as: daisy like, pompon, cushion, buttons (small pompons), decorative, spiders and spoon-petal.
Mums have dark green leaves that are hairy and most cases fragrant. They can be used as bedding plants, hanging baskets, and in containers.
Plant in full sun (at least a half day). Rich, fertile soil high in organic material is best. Good drainage is very important for survival over winter. Mums prefer constantly moist but not soggy soil.
Plants in containers should be water almost every other day. Established plants in the ground should be fine with natural rainfall, but in droughts supplemental watering is needed. Newly planted mums should be watered 2-3 times per week.
Incorporate into the soil a general purpose fertilizer close to 6-12-6 at a rate of 1/2-1 lb. per 100 square feet, every month. Or a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro or Peter's once a month would work. If you are planting in the fall usually no fertilizer is needed.
To encourage branching and development of compact bushy plants, it is very important to pinch back your mums in the spring. When new growth has reached 6", pinch 2-3" off of every branch. Whenever a branch grows another 5-6 inches repeat the pinching. Stop pinching as the summer ends because the plant will slow its growth and start developing flower buds. In Northern states stop pinching the second week of July and for southern states the last week of July.
In northern states hardy mums are not always hardy, but with some extra care mums can be saved for the next year. As the first frosts approaches make sure the soil is moist. Mulch plants with straw after several hard frosts. Removing dead plant material is not necessary and leaving it will actually help insulate the mum. In April remove all dead mum material and straw and use a hardwood or cypress mulch after new growth appears.