How to deal with mums

How to deal with mums:

Ruth Shaw asked,

What do I do with my Chrysanthemums when they quit blooming?

 

mums2

Garden mums custom grown for a late October wedding

I am writing this with the expectations of being able to refer people to my blog instead of answering it six times a day.  You can plant and grow mums in the garden outside.  Here’s how it works:

 

mums3

In mid November, this mum has seen its better days

A lot of beautiful mums were sold in the months of September and October.  Chrysanthemums are fun to watch and grow. There is a trigger for the blooms on most plants.  Crape myrtles bloom with the effects of temperature.  Azaleas bloom after their flower buds have gone through a period of cold followed by a period of warmth.  (This excludes the Encore azaleas which are different—more about these in a separate blog.).

Chrysanthemums respond to a phenomenon called “photoperiodism”. This means that their blooming is regulated by day length (photo=light + “period”).  Mums grown in an unregulated environment will bloom naturally in the fall.  They will develop their vegetative growth in the summer months and then form flower buds in August and September.  There are many different varieties that bloom earlier or later.  The professional growers will produce several of these varieties in order to extend the selling season.  For seasonal mums at the nursery, rooted cuttings are planted in pots somewhere around the first of July and are “pinched” to form branching until about August 15, timing depending on variety.  The fully branched plants are then grown out into the specimens that you see at nurseries, grocery stores, and flea markets.

Poinsettias also set their bloom by the number of hours of daylight/darkness.

Florist mums are grown differently.  Special and fancier varieties are grown in a greenhouse in which the light may be regulated.  This is commonly done by pulling a shade cloth over the plants at a certain time of day.  The production of florist mums is highly specialized and takes quite a bit of knowledge, talent, and educated labor.

Chrysanthemums are perennial plants and should grow and return anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line.  I’m not quite sure how far north they will survive, but they do will here in north Georgia and my mother grows them in Kingsport, Tennessee.

When your chrysanthemum quits blooming cut off the spent blooms.  Cut the tops of the plants down to 2/3 of the plant’s original size.  Keeping in mind that mums like lots and lots of light, prepare a space in the garden.  Due to photoperiodism, you will want to find a place that is not under or near a street light or other long burning outside lighting fixture.

Shake the pruned plant out of the pot and look at it.  Most growers will put two or three or more plants in the pot, depending on the pot size.  You may divide these if desired, or you may just choose to plant the entire plant as it comes from the pot.  If you wish to divide the plant, carefully slide a butcher knife between the individual plants and cut the root ball.

It is important that you break up the root ball of the plant so that the roots will grow out and into the soil instead of remaining in a tight ball that is caused by the flower pot.  Don’t be afraid to be a little rough with the roots.

The rest is easy, dig a hole, add some organic material, add a teaspoon, more or less of  Osmocote,  cover the roots, pack the dirt down, and water when needed.

For growing out the following spring, you should cut back the dead stems from the year before and watch the little plants grow.  Prune the plants around July 1 and then again around August 1-15.  This will encourage branching which will give you more blooms.  During active periods of growth, fertilize the plants every couple of weeks with a little liquid feed.  This will supplement the effects of the Osmocote.

I found out by accident one time that you should leave the dead stems all winter and remove them after the plant starts to grow again in the spring.  This seems to insulate the new shoots from the cold.

Florist mums that have spent their lives either inside a greenhouse or in another warm environment may not do as well as the garden mums.  If you take a plant out of the warm house and plant it outside in the winter time it won’t have time to become acclimated to the cold and will probably croak. These plants will probably do better if kept in a warm, bright window until spring.

By the way, did you know that you can bonsai a chrysanthemum?  I think there is a chrysanthemum bonsai society.  I’ve never done it, but I have seen some beautiful pictures.

Enjoy the planting

Grow it.

John P. Schulz

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ruth Shaw
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 19:30:43

    Many, Many thanks John Paul. How great for you to share this “free” advice , even spelling out the proper name…When i wrote before, i finally just had to write “mum”.
    My son brought me the large plant and it stayed beautiful through the week-end but is now begining to turn brown. I will ask him but assume it to be a florist mum and follow your directions above! Thanks again! Ruth<

    Reply

  2. Ruth Shaw
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 20:11:46

    Many , Many Thanks John Paul for taking time to naswer quesitons and for all this wonderful information!!! My son brought me the large beautiful plant. I put it on a plant stand in my living room as we had people here for Sunday dinner. The mum was beautiful all week and week-end but is now beginning to turn brown.
    I will ask Terrell but I am pretty sure it is a florest mum … Thanks again John…
    Ruth<

    Reply

  3. Jane Schulz
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 16:44:19

    Thank you for your discourse on mums (I can never spell chrysanthemums). I am looking for a particular one that I used to have when I lived in North Carolina. It grew to knee-high height and produced flowers sort of daisy-like, in lovely colors of lavender and yellow and white. They were wonderful for cutting and multiplied gloriously. I especially enjoyed them for bringing inside and used to gather armfuls of them to take to the nursing home.

    I should have brought some of these mums when I moved but I did not and would love to grow some again. Do you know about them? I also remember them from my childhood.

    Reply

  4. Shari Evans
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 16:56:56

    John, I came here to ask you a question and saw your mother’s comment. I might have the mums she is asking about.

    Ken bought me two large baskets of mums to set by our back door for Thanksgiving. He got them at Lowe’s and they are very large plants. (I have not examined to see if there is more than one plant in there yet.) The flowers are daisy-like with lavendar tips, white on the inner part of the petals and yellow centers. If this is what your mom is looking for maybe I can get one of them to her. Or she might still be able to find one at Lowe’s.

    My question is about pruning. These mums are still so lovely that I don’t want to prune them yet. (Today is Dec. 2.) They look like they will continue to bloom for a while. I don’t see any decline yet. What if I just don’t prune them until they begin to decline? Do you think I will mess up the timing for next year?

    I have never had any success with planted potted mums but want to follow your suggestions with these lovely plants. I don’t have many sunny spots in my yard. At present, they are sitting in shade but I know they will want some sun soon.

    Thanks for writing your blog. It is very helpful and interesting.

    Reply

  5. johntheplantman
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 17:01:49

    Shari
    Don’t you dare cut them until the last bloom has withered and died. Enjoy it while it blooms–just like other aspects of life. My instructions were for after the bloom.

    I’ll ask mom. Maybe she’ll even read the blot.

    Reply

  6. Shari Evans
    Dec 03, 2009 @ 04:53:16

    Thanks, John. I didn’t really want to murder them!

    The more I look at these beautiful mums the more they remind me of old fashioned ones. If your mom thinks they are the ones I will find a way to get one to her. Is it legal to mail plants? I don’t think hitchhiking bugs from GA would be too harmful in TN.

    Reply

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