Just as the poinsettia has come to represent the Christmas holiday season, the brightly colored fall blooming "mums" have become a symbol of autumn! From grocery stores to garden centers, these colorful plants are everywhere just shouting "Fall is Here!" For the shrewd gardener, the October gardens can come alive each year with the colorful blooms of super hardy mums in an array of pinks, apricots, reds, and yellows. These long-lived hardy forms are a delight both in the garden and as long-lasting cut flowers.
The diversity of flower form and colors of hardy mums is quite large if you shop at a reliable nursery or garden center. Choices range
from single or semi-double daisy forms to charming fully double button-type flowers in various fall-like colors!
Be aware that most of the mums you can buy in the fall are not winter hardy in colder regions.
So . . . how can you tell if you have chosen a hardy variety or one of the more tender "florist mums"?
Hardy mums prefer full sun or light shade and well-drained soil. Poorly drained, wet soil is fatal to these perennials - especially during the winter! Maintain 2" - 3" of mulch around the plants to protect the crown and prevent heaving in the winter.
It is best to plant them in the spring to early fall so they can establish a strong root system before the first frost. Keep them well watered after planting and DO NOT allow them to dry out.
To keep your plants nice and compact with lots of blooms, shear or pinch them back by about 1/3 when the reach about 6" tall and again when the new growth reaches 3" - 5" tall. Do not pinch back after mid-July.
After frost finally kills the last blossoms, shear the flowers off but allow the old foliage to remain over the winter to protect the crown. Cut this foliage back in the spring being careful not to disturb the new growth.