Extending the Garden's Colors

In late summer, early fall, most of the annuals and perennials have faded or stopped blooming.

Chrysanthemums, or hardy mums are the perfect plant to extend color in the landscape.  In zone 5, mums are an iconic symbol of fall.

This magenta mum located on a west-facing bed in the front yard was planted five years ago as a single potted plant. It continues to grow via the stolons (shoots that bend to the ground producing roots at the nodes).  I fertilize using Miracle Gro during the summer.  I also amend the surrounding soil with homemade compost.

Mums come in a variety of colors including white, yellow, gold, purple and red.  Mums are cultivated to grow in zones 3-9.  Cultivars vary in hardiness so it is best to buy mums from your local nursery. The plants grow 2 to 3 feet high and prefer full sun and well-drained soil.  Mums can withstand light frosts.

When planting potted mums (versus root cuttings), plant in late summer in order to establish the roots.  In the spring, pinch off the tips of the plant to produce and promote side growth.  This will cause the plant to fill out (become bushy).  During hot, dry weather, mums need extra watering.  With care, mums can be long-lasting perennials.  The golden mum shown above looks a little worse for wear because my cat, Noll likes to roll around in the adjacent catnip.  Sometimes he accidentally flops on the mum.

In late summer, I removed some of the spent annuals and wild phlox from the perennial bed and planted four yellow mums.  The cheery yellow brightens up the outer edges of the bittersweet.  In late fall, a protective mulching (leaves/grass) will help protect the plantings from the winter cold.  In a few years, they should be as full and spreading as the magenta.  Mums are a great value:  low in price, nominal care and long-lived.

Fall wouldn't be the same without them.

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