Chrysanthemum x morifolium come in many wonderful colors and flower type. Varieties such as: daisy, pompon, cushion, buttons (small pompons), decorative, spiders and spoon-petal are available. My favorites are the daisy types but the most popular are the cushion.
I like to call fall mums, “Garden Mum” instead of “Hardy Mum”. The reason I think we all know. They may decide to come back the following year and they may not. The later is what most people find happens. This can be very frustrating, I know. The best time to plant these so called hardy mums is actually in the spring or early summer. The problem with this is the availability of varieties or color choices. You can usually find a few 4” pots at that time, but never the giant mums that you can find in the fall. By planting in the spring, their roots will have time to grow and get established. If you planted them in the spring or summer encouraging them to branch nice and develop into full compact bushy plants is key. It would have been very important to pinch back your mums in the spring and throughout the summer. When new growth has reached 6", pinch 2-3" off of every branch. Whenever a branch grows another 5-6 inches repeat the pinching. Stop pinching the second week of July, this is when the plant will slow it's growth and start developing flower buds. Here are ways to help your fall mums return for another colorful season:
Planting– Mums should be planted in full sun. A good 5-6 hours is perfect. Find an area that has good drainage as it is very important for their survival over winter. Mums have a very shallow root system so they prefer to be somewhat moist but never have soggy soil. A good rich, fertile soil high in organic material is also helpful. Fox Farm Multi-Purpose Planting Mix is a concentrated blend of organic peat, composted forest humus, earthworm castings, Norwegian kelp meal and bat guano: nature's finest soil amendments. It is a ph-balanced planting mix that is ready to use right from the bag. This may help your mums live through the winter and develop a better root system before the ground freezes.
Mulching– Is a must when planting here in our climate this fall. When our ground freezes and thaws in the winter, the ground will heave up some of the plants that have shallow root systems. This causes them to be damaged or die in the winter. Use shredded bark, leaves, straw or Happy Frog Soil Conditioner as a top dressing. But do not put mulch on to early. You should wait until the ground starts to freeze. Small critters might make a nest in it if you put it down to soon. There is no need to prune off the dead growth after a hard frost. I believe it helps to leave it on by keeping the mulch in it's place. Prune it off in the spring when you start to see new growth at the base.
Try some these friends of mums for even more fresh color this fall.
Flowering Kale- These plants thrive in cool weather and full sun. They are so cold tolerant, that they will look great peeking through the snow. Great mixed in planters with Mums.
Pansies-Pansies are one of the most popular and recognizable cool weather annuals. Some may survive the winter if mulched.
Ornamental Peppers-Ornamental pepper plants grow well indoors or outside. These peppers are very hot so they are not recommended to eat. They are grown for their great fall color added to planters.
Millet-This purple foliage plant is a AAS Gold Medal (All American Selection) Winner and stays beautiful spring through fall!
Asters– This is their time to shine. Gives nice color in shades of blue and pink. Also nice added to fall planters.
Rubeckia– Black-Eyed Susan offers bold splashes of reliable color from mid summer to fall.
Put it in a planter, then plant in a perennial garden before the ground freezes, mulch.