It's that time of year and we hope you are as excited as we are! Throughout the entire spring and summer, our greenhouse experts are back behind the scenes growing our very own Chrysanthemums! Often referred to simply as “mums,” these beautiful perennial flowers are sought after far and wide, and now they are available at Bath Garden Center right here in Fort Collins, CO. And to help you get the most out of your mums this year, we’ve put together some information including how to care for them, how to grow them as perennial flowers, as well as all of the varieties we carry!
One thing to know about mums is that there are two different kinds of mums: garden mums and floral mums. Floral mums are often the ones you see at grocery stores and such. They require slightly different care than garden mums and act more like an annual flower. They often have larger blooms than garden mums, but once they have bloomed for the season, they will not bloom again. Even if you happen to find some garden mums at your local grocery store, beware! These mums, while there may not be anything wrong with them, look pretty because they have been forced to bloom early (who wants to buy a basket of flowers that isn’t in bloom?). With these mums, if you are hoping for flowers through the fall season, you will be disappointed. Since they have been forced to bloom early, the flowers will also die early, meaning that your enjoyment is also cut short.
At Bath Garden Center, all of our mums are garden mums! And what many people do not realize is that garden mums are a perennial flower! Many greenhouses sell mums in cute decorative baskets for you to place on your patio, and often enough, when they stop flowering or the weather turns cold, people simply throw them away due to the fact that they do not understand the difference between floral mums and garden mums. This year, instead of tossing your mums from Bath Garden Center, plant them in the ground for several years of enjoyment! Many mums you see at your local garden center may not yet be in bloom, but that is because we let our mums do their thing, instead of forcing them to bloom like many larger retailers. We let our mums bloom when the weather and environment naturally compel them to, meaning you get flowers throughout the whole fall season! Another perk of purchasing mums that have not begun to bloom means that you will get to enjoy the blooms for longer and the process of repotting your mums or planting them in the ground will be less traumatic for a plant that is not yet in full bloom.
Mums are also not usually available in garden centers until the end of the summer nears. This is because they tend to bloom late and are fairly cold hardy. They are responsive to the shorter days that come with the end of summer, flowering only when they are exposed to light/warmth for a certain amount of time per day. They can also tolerate mild frost, so they last longer than most of your other more tender annual and perennial flowers. This makes them great fall flowers and is why they are primarily seen on greenhouse benches or adorning front doors towards the end of the season.
How to Care for Mums
Planting/Repotting Your Mums
Caring for garden mums is easy, and the reward is great. When you purchase your mums, many of them will come in the nursery container that they were grown in. Now that they are big and beautiful, the root ball of the plant may start to become root-bound. A plant that is root-bound will not die, but it also will not thrive as well as a plant whose roots have room to grow and spread. So, breaking them out of their nursery container, loosening up their root system a bit, and giving them fresh soil in either a new container or in the ground will do wonders for their growth and beauty.
Can Mums Withstand the Heat?
Garden mums love the heat, so making sure that they are in an area where they receive full sun will ensure that they are happy and healthy. If your mums do not receive enough direct sun, they will likely grow to be tall and leggy, and the flowers they produce will be smaller and more sparse. So, whether you are planting them in a container or planting them in the ground, make sure you find space for them in an area that gets the most sun possible!
Watering Your Mums
Make sure you water your mums plenty! Since they (ideally) sit directly in the hot sun, they will need a lot of water too! Before extreme summer temperatures begin to die down, your mums may need to be watered as much as two times per day! You can always stick your fingers in the soil and if it is dry a couple inches beneath the surface, it is definitely time to water. As temperatures begin to cool down, adjust your watering habits accordingly, and be careful not to overwater your mums. Planting them in a well-draining potting mix will help ensure that the soil holds onto enough water to keep the roots moist, but doesn’t hold onto so much water that the roots suffocate. So, adjust your habits as the seasons shift and check in with your mums frequently to make sure they are getting the care they need! Also, when you are watering, try to water at the base of the plant. Showering water over the whole plant, foliage and all, simply opens the door to fungus which will just lead to a sick, unhappy plant.
Trimming, Dead-Heading, and Pruning Your Mums
These are always an important part of growing any sort of annual or perennial plants. Trimming back any leggy growth will help promote a more bushy and compact growth habit, as it will divert any energy being put into the extremities of the plant back to the core of the plant.
Deadheading is also always a good practice with any flowering plants. This is simply the practice of removing any spent blooms from the plant. With some annual flowers, this can encourage additional blooming. In the case of mums, it simply gives your plant a cleaner look not having a bunch of dead flowers hanging around. Simply pinch off any spent blooms with your fingers, or grab a sharp pair of scissors to get the job done!
Pruning back your mums is also important if you choose to plant your mums in the ground. Leave them be for the winter, and as soon as spring comes around, cut your mums back approximately six inches from the ground. Prune them back as soon as (or before) you start to see new growth. This will make sure that your plant wastes no energy on foliage that will just get cut back anyways. Pruning back your mums in the spring gives them the whole season to grow and prepare to produce beautiful blooms in the fall!
How to Grow Mums as Perennial Flowers
Growing garden mums as perennial flowers is easy. Simply plant them just as you would any other perennial plant! If you want to enjoy them on your porch for the first part of the season, that is just fine as well. Just be sure to plant them in the ground early enough in the season for them to have some time to establish their roots and they will grow for years to come. If you choose to repot your mums in a large planter on your patio, the plant may overwinter just fine without being moved to the ground, though this is not a 100% guarantee. As always, fertilizing your mums periodically will only add to their growth and beauty throughout the year.
Decorating with Mums
Mums are SO fun to decorate with. The number of different colors gives you so many options, plus they pair well with other seasonal items such as pumpkins, hay bales, corn stalks, and the like! Combining your mums in planters with marigolds and other fall annual or perennial flowers, grasses, and foliage will also make for a diverse and beautiful patio decoration. Try carving out the inside of a pumpkin and placing your mums inside the pumpkins or hide miniature pumpkins and fun-shaped gourds throughout your mum baskets and planters. Stack up pumpkins around your mums, or mums around your pumpkins! There are so many fun options, and no combination of colors or designs will be the same, ensuring that your front porch will truly be one-of-a-kind!
Did you know that mums are also edible? They have actually been used throughout the years for a number of medicinal and culinary purposes. Make tea out of the flowers or salads out of the greens! Eat them stir-fried, baked, or fresh! There are so many options that we went ahead and found some of our favorites. So, if you would like to learn more about chrysanthemum tea and its benefits,