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Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

Marvelous Mums (page 3 of 5)

by Barbara Pleasant

Flower Types

Chrysanthemum hobbyists (and the following descriptions) use specific names to describe common flower types. They are: anemone (one or more rows of petals and a large, raised center); brush (rolled, pointed petals); decorative (long, wide, overlapping petals); incurve (large flowers with petals that curve upward and inward); irregular curve (like incurve, but less rigid); laciniated (petal tips fringed); pompom (uniform, globular flowers that can become 5 inches in diameter); quill (rolled petals long and narrow); reflex (big flowers with petals that curve various directions); semidouble (two or three rows of petals around center); single or daisy (a single row of petals); spider (long, tightly curled petals with hooked tips); and spoon (rolled petals that are flattened at tips).

How to Grow Chrysanthemums

The best time to plant chrysanthemums is in the spring, though you also can plant them through summer and into early fall. The earlier you plant, the longer your mums will have to develop good root systems -- a crucial factor in determining winter hardiness. All chrysanthemums need full sun in the North, at least a half day of sun in the South, and always, everywhere, very well-drained soil.

If you can save some space until spring, you can help yourself to the huge selections of garden-worthy varieties offered by specialist mail-order companies, which ship only in spring. Mail-order mums are single-stemmed rooted cuttings, which begin growing rapidly as soon as they are planted.

To grow stocky, heavy-flowering plants, pinching back the growing tips is essential. Pinch off the top 1 to 2 inches of growth when taller varieties are 6 to 9 inches high and shorter varieties are 4 to 5 inches high. Repeat every three to five weeks until early July, more frequently with the most dwarf varieties. In warm climates, where mums begin growing in March, plants are usually ready for their first pinch by May 1. But in most of the country, pinch them the first time on Memorial Day, and the second time on the Fourth of July.

If you have some lanky, unpinched plants to deal with right now, it's too late to make them short and stocky. But you can encourage them to make spectacular large and long-stemmed flowers. Stake them and pinch off most of the buds from the lowest section of stem. The blooms at the stem tips will be stronger and larger, and will make lovely long-stemmed cut flowers.

As long as chrysanthemums have good drainage, they are not picky about soil. They often bloom without any fertilizer, but growth is better if you mulch them lightly in early summer with well-rotted manure or rich compost, or fertilize them lightly once a month with a balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) until the flower buds form.

Don't be surprised if mums that were compact when you bought them in pots a year ago grow much larger when set free to grow in your garden. They're just showing their appreciation for a long growing season on unrestricted roots. Climate plays a role in plant height, too. High temperatures slow stem growth in midsummer, but cool temperatures and heavy rain can make stems lanky. In mild, moist climates, many mums won't stay upright without support. To keep them from flopping, support them with thin bamboo or metal stakes before the flowers open. Alternatively, pinch growing tips more often to stimulate development of stockier, bushier plants.

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