Mums the Word or Chrysanthemums according to Andy Last edited Friday, November 11, 2005. Links at bottom.
Chrysanthemums have many variations of color and form, are the easiest perennials to grow, extend the gardening season, thrive almost anywhere in U.S. and their requirements are simple.
12 hour nights along with cooler temperatures tend to trigger bud formation.
Individual flowers last 3-6 weeks though water shortage and hot weather can shorten bloom.
White flowered mums show damage after only 1 frost.
Decorative flower types are most durable.
About 80% of all mums are Yoder Prophets.
History and Use
The old botanical name was Chrysanthemum morifolium. The new one is Dendranthema grandiflora.
Greek for Golden flower. In China the image is used to decorate religious objects. Drinking water with the blooms was supposed to make you live longer. Ancient emblem of Japanese Mikado. Chinese eat them in salads. In Italy its an herb. A headache remedy in Korea. In Christianity was once used to keep people awake in church. Around AD 400 there was a mum craze among the Chinese. In Japan they came to symbolize longevity. Today Japan leads in training mums.
Mums are trained in many traditional styles such as; imitating water cascading over a hillside, single or multi-stemmed with large flowers and bonsai.
Some mums are supported by forms hidden beneath the flowers.
The New York Botanical Garden has a fall Japanese chrysanthemum display in the Bronx.
Mums are photoperiodic and make flower buds when nighttime is longer than daytime.
Mums can be forced to bud and flower out of season by covering them with opaque cloth from 5PM till 8AM.
Best Landscape Mums may be upright types which grow to 18" with 3" flowers.
If you want a better chance of survival, plant early so that there is a longer time in which to develop a good root system.
Mums require full sun and a well drained garden soil.
Foliar disease may develop in too much shade.
Pinch off top 2-3" of plants every 3 to 5 weeks till July 4. Plants that are tall and spindly that you missed pinching off, pinch off the buds on the lower 3rd and it will create larger flowers (you might have to stake too).
Plant mums some distance away from street lights that could disrupt their schedule so they don't flower.
Plants that have wilted can be watered and they'll come back but stems will then be woodier and they wont branch or flower as well.
Avoid planting where there are cold drying winds in Winter.
Fertilize once per month with a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20) and mulch with compost.
Plants who's names start with 'Minn-...' like 'Minn-Autumn' were developed by the University of Minnesota and are very hardy. Two of the best choices for zone 4 or 5 is 'Clara Curtis' and 'Mary Stoker'.
When finished blooming don't cut back because the stems protect the crown and they catch just enough blowing leaves to protect themselves in Winter (remember Nature leaves dead foliage in Winter and so should you.
Mulch with straw, hay or the branches of your Christmas tree.
Divide in spring by slicing in half.
I have planted mums in the Albany, NY area every year as late as October. A couple of pointers however are in order.
1. Choose plants that show some foliar growth at the base of the stems. I find plants that dont have foliage near the soil usually dont survive harsh winters.
2. After flowering is finished cut off the flower heads to stop seed production.
3. Leave the upright stems to prevent moist mulch from packing down on top of the foliage at the base of the stems.
4. I pack my mums together in mass plantings.
Each mass is either in front of the border or actually in the lawn.
This not only provides a better display it also mkes the summer maintenence simpler.
In spring I cut my mass plantings down to the height of the surrounding turf.
Whenever I mow the lawn I also mow my mum planting up through mid-july.
I water and fertilize these mum plantings regularly.
After mid-july I mow around each of my mass plantings.
In fall, during or after blooming; I add to the periphery of each mass, new mums.
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