Chrysanthemums can be a lovely and frugal addition to your garden, IF you don’t treat them like fall blooming annuals! Mums are actually pretty hardy perennials. I was chatting with a friend about being saddened to see my neighbors discard their mums after they have stopped blooming for the season. We wondered why people did that. Yesterday, I was thumbing through a gardening book that I picked up at the library sale for a dollar and it recommended buying new mums each year. Seriously? What kind of gardening advice is that? Telling people to go buy new flowers does not teach them anything about growing plants!
Mums are quite inexpensive to buy and I do take advantage of sales on them like the coupon for Buy 2 mums/ Get 1 Free from the Home Depot Gardening Club. But I do not buy mums with the intention of discarding them when they are done blooming. I buy more mums because we have one acre that we are trying to landscape and it takes a lot of plants to fill up an acre!
Mums are actually quite easy to grow. They grow best in sunny spots, with well drained soil. I mix compost into the soil, because that is how I justify keeping horses it does double duty, both nourishing the plant and helping to retain moisture near the roots. Although, Chrysanthemums do not like to sit in water, they do require a deep watering a couple of times a week.
Most of the mums you find in local garden centers have been bred to branch naturally, which makes them low maintenance. More branches = more blooms. so if you have a very leggy mum, you will want to move it to a sunny spot and prune it back to about 12 inches high. If you are going to prune or pinch back your mums, do so before July; you want to give the plant plenty of time to develop healthy buds.
Since mums do not bloom until late August or early September, I use them as a background plant in the spring and summer. I usually have a mix of spring and summer blooming bulbs and annuals in front of the mums. When they foliage of the summer blooming flowers dies back, I remove it and let the mums be the star of my fall garden.
If you want your mums to survive the winter (and if you are still reading, I assume you do) pinch the dead flowers, but do not cut back the branches until spring. I also add a couple of inches of mulch to protect the roots.
Here is the really frugal part: Mums are easy to divide! In the spring (after the last frost and after you see new growth) dig up the entire plant. then using a clean knife or spade, cut pieces of new growth from the outer part of the plant making sure that you have roots as well. Plant immediately in a prepared bed. It is not necessary to divide mums each year; I only divide my mums every couple of years.
On Friday, the controversial topics will continue as I write about how being a lazy gardener is not only frugal, but better for your plants.