Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
August, 2008
Regional Report

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In fall the common marigold transforms into luminous mari-mums that brighten the landscape with easy-care color.

Mari-Mums for Fall Color

Don't get me wrong, I love chrysanthemums. In fact, I think every landscape should include a few of these fall-blooming plants. I just want to tell you about an awesome imposter that may just outshine the mums in your landscape this fall.

Calling it an imposter is not really fair to this familiar garden plant. There is no intent to deceive on its part, it's just doing its thing. The plant I'm talking about is the marigold. Now, you may have tried marigolds in the past and perhaps had mixed results. If you've not tried growing these annuals in the fall season you have a pleasant surprise coming!

Marigolds are common in garden centers during the spring and summer. They tolerate heat as long as they are provided adequate soil moisture. However heat brings the marigold's number one nemesis, spider mites, which can turn the plants to toast.

As the weather cools off in fall, spider mite populations decline dramatically. Even though it's hot at planting time, the marigolds are able to take off and grow lush and beautiful while spider mite populations just never get a chance to build up. Thus marigolds planted in August escape mite problems and produce an absolutely spectacular fall show.

The Best Fall Marigolds
Marigolds come in several types. The two most common ones are the small-flowered French marigolds and the large-flowered African types. Both will perform well in the fall. For the most spectacular show, select the large African marigolds, with pom-pom or mum-type flowers.

Their mum-like appearance has earned these marigolds the name "mari-mums." But believe me, these radiant blooms in bright yellow and orange will put your mums to shame from September on through the first fall frost. Once the first freezing weather hits, it's all over and you can pull the plants to replace them with winter flowers.

For best results provide marigolds with full sun. The fall season can be rainy in some parts of the lower south so make sure the soil drains well. Raised planting beds may be helpful in marginal sites. Space plants about 12 inches apart. Fertilize with a soluble plant food at planting and repeat twice more about 5 to 7 days apart. After that, once a month feeding should be adequate to keep them healthy, vigorous, and blooming up a storm.

Try a few mari-mums this fall. They work great in mass plantings, bordering a walkway, or even in a large container. You can't beat them for easy, eye-popping color.

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