Garden Mums for a Last Blast of Color

Garden mums should be in every garden for that last blast of color before the first freeze withers everything.  One of the last plants to bloom before frost, I savor the blowsy colorful flowers that come in a range of reds, oranges, and pinks. Attracting many pollinators as they are the few things that are still blooming, I always expect the bees and butterflies to cover them.

Florist Mum

Forget the florist mums in a large plastic pot that you set on your front porch and throw away when it is a dried desiccated plant corpse. I am talking about garden mums that are tough perennials, grow in the ground,  are hardy, and make great fresh cuts.

I use the florist mums, the huge ones in plastic pots for fall displays, but in the garden, I prefer the ‘garden mums’ which are extremely hardy and are the lifeblood of my honeybees when they are starving for nectar in October and November.

Deer resistant only until the plant starts to form buds, and then the deer will clear cut them! So, if you have deer, start to spray the plants when they set their flower buds.

Chrysanthemum ‘Coraligraphy’

The reason I don’t see many garden mums at people’s properties, is they are a hard sell in the spring when most people visit the nursery to buy their flowering annuals and perennials. The garden mum foliage is barely growing out of the pot in the spring, and shoppers pass on to something that is blooming and beautiful.

These are ‘florist mums’ that you typically see for sale in the fall

Hardy garden mums put out stolons. Florist mums put out few or no stolons and are less likely to over-winter in cold regions. If you aren’t a plant geek, ‘stolons’ are a creeping horizontal plant stem or runner that takes root at points along its length to form new plants. So, If you plant a garden mum expect it to travel a bit and make a great showing when it finally blooms in the fall.

‘Sheffield Pink’ is growing around a wall

The plants’ late blooming period makes them a must-have in the North and Mid-Atlantic fall garden. Mine are in full bloom right now in late October going into November and will last all month long.

This orange variety is called ‘Campfire Glow’
  • Botanical NameChrysanthemum morifolium 
  • Common Name: Hardy mums, garden mums
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature Size: About 2 feet high (but varies by cultivar)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, evenly moist, and rich
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic to neutral
  • Bloom Time: October into November
  • Flower Color: Yellow, Orange, all shades of pink, red
  • Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
  • Native Area: Asia and northeastern Europe
Pair garden mums with other fall blooming plants; This is the train garden at Longwood Gardens and the mums are growing with Skyscraper Salvia
Sometimes hard to find in the nursery, if you buy from a catalog, it is best to plant them in the spring to become established. Do not overcrowd chrysanthemums as good air circulation reduces the chance of disease. That goes without saying for most plants.
‘Brandywine Sunset’ decorates the train garden at Longwood Gardens
Pinching
If you want your mums to be shorter than the 24″ size that they normally get, you can ‘pinch’ them or sheer them back until the end of June, when the plants are four to six inches high. Removing the tips of new growth stimulates the plants to send out side-shoots and get bushier. It is called ‘pinching’ because you can generally accomplish the task simply by grasping the stem between thumb and forefinger and severing it with a pinching action. But stop pinching chrysanthemums around the beginning of summer, or else bud formation will not occur soon enough to ensure flowering for fall.
‘Brandywine Sunset’
If you don’t want to be bothered with this task (and I don’t do this) your mums will still bloom beautifully but be a bit taller. If you plant them next to tall plants they will be supported. Otherwise they will be somewhat ‘recumbent’. But I think that gives them a nice graceful look.
‘Campfire Glow’ in a garden 
At a friends garden, I spotted  ‘Sheffield Pink’ creating a great ground cover in partial shade
Growing mums ensures that you will have late season bloom when most other flowers are done and the mums will survive frosts but not freezes. The garden mums have nice long stems for flower arranging, so you can enjoy them in a vase where they have great longevity in the vase.
This is ‘Campfire Glow’ in a vase

One of my Bouquets of the Day with ‘Sheffield Pink’

 

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