Growing Green: Take good care of your mums
Many of us do not view our favorite and common fall flower, the chrysanthemum (mum), as exotic. However, these lovely and easy-to-grow flowering plants were brought to us from Asia.
Mums have been hybridized many, many times to produce the gorgeous array of fall colors that we see in gardens throughout the Lehigh Valley.
The versatile flowering mum is available in a multitude of sizes, shapes and colors. The height of a typical mum plant can range from one to two feet.
The shape of the flower can vary from the more familiar multi-leaved chrysanthemum to a mum with a daisy-like appearance, to the large "pom-pom" flowering mums that were traditionally worn at Homecoming and Thanksgiving Day football games.
One characteristic of mums that confuses many gardeners is that there are both perennial and annual varieties. It is often difficult to determine whether a mum is a true perennial or hardy mum. Both types are sold in most garden centers in the late summer and early fall. The hardiness of these plants is greatly dependent on where you live. The Lehigh Valley is Zone 6.
Mums are remarkably easy plants to grow. They can be started from seed or from cuttings. Three- to four-inch cuttings should be taken from the bushy tips of mature plants. Remove the lower leaves and dip into rooting medium and then place into rich potting soil.
The cuttings can then be transplanted into the garden after the roots have established themselves and there is no danger of frost. Small mum plants can also be purchased in the spring in flats.
You can buy big, beautiful mums in the fall from your local garden center and plant them directly in your garden. Care should be taken when transplanting mums because their stems are easy to break.
Mums like rich, well-drained, slightly acidic garden soil and should receive at least five hours of sunlight each day. Mums grow well in raised beds because the roots prefer dry soil.
A perennial mum planted in damp soil may not survive the winter. Adding compost or fertilizer in the spring is highly recommended. However, mums will produce more blooms if fertilizing is discontinued in late summer.
"Growing Green" is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-746-1970.