Labor Day marks the unofficial beginning of fall. To help us celebrate, box stores, grocery stores, and garden centers stock their benches with mums – the quintessential flowers of fall. Whether you love them or leave them, it can’t be disputed that their brightly colored blooms announce fall has arrived.
Just like winter coats displayed in stores in July, mums in full bloom before Labor Day annoys me. Mums are fall-flowering plants genetically wired to bloom in cool weather. Some growers force them to bloom ahead of their natural schedule in hopes of increased sales. Don’t buy mums in full bloom!
Their flowers fade quickly in high temperatures. Mums can go from wonderful to washed-out in a week or so.
If some of the annuals in your summer containers need replacing now, go ahead and buy mums, but purchase plants that are either tightly-budded or just beginning to show color. Here are more tips to keep mums blooming as long as possible.
1. Choose healthy plants. Pass by plants with wilting or yellowing foliage. Be sure plants are not root bound.
2. Keep mums in a spot with several hours of direct sunlight in the morning and then protected from hot afternoon sun. Or choose a location with bright, but indirect light all day.
3. Mums don’t like to dry out. Water regularly to keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
4. Choose mums with a range of bloom times. Staff at garden centers can tell you which mums are early, mid or late season bloomers. Planting some of each category will ensure blooms from September to November.
5. Deadheading spent blooms will keep mums looking their best.
Under these conditions, mums will continue to bloom for a month or more.
Fall mums are bred to bloom and bloom and bloom. With all that energy directed to the flowers, there is little left for winter hardiness. Even though the odds are against it, you can certainly try to overwinter them.
1. Get them in the ground as soon as you can.
2. Cover the soil around them with several inches of mulch.
3. Leave the dead foliage standing for the winter.
Fall is a lovely season to spend time in the garden. Garden with me!