Ask a Question forum: Chrysanthemums/mums in the garden

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Name: Annie
Waynesboro, PA (Zone 6a)
Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry
Sep 30, 2014 6:08 AM CST
OK, for nigh on 20 years now, every autumn, I buy some of those spectacular mums that are on sale everywhere, plant them, nurture them, light candles and offer up prayers and every spring, nothing. They either rot over the winter or send up some thin green shoots and then die. Just a mile down the road from me, a neighbor has 6 (SIX) magnificent huge clumps of wine-colored mums that come back every year, without fail, bigger and better all the time.

How in the heck do you grow mums as perennials?

I live in Pennsylvania, zone 6, with variable clay/loam soil.
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Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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Sep 30, 2014 7:05 AM CST
They need good drainage, so maybe a bit of soil preparation first. Plant the mums at the same depth as they were in their pots. Keep the plant mulched. Here is the hard part - once the cold weather arrives in Pennsylavania, cut the plant back to about 3 inches. That's right, just hack it off. Have faith (and good drainage) and you should succeed.

I might add that once the spring arrives and the plant starts to grow, you need to give it a 'haircut' to encourage branching and for more blooms.
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
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Sep 30, 2014 7:22 AM CST
I agree Good luck!
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Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
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Sep 30, 2014 7:23 AM CST
Many of those fall mums are no longer hardy. They bred the hardiness out of them because they want you to buy them every year.

Buy some small plants in the SPRING/EARLY summer from a source like Bluestone Perennials or Mums of Minnesota that specialize in truly hardy mums. By fall they will not be small!!

Greene is right, mums do need good drainage. But sorry Green, DO NOT CUT THEM BACK UNTIL the next SPRING! Yes they look ugly over the winter, but they will reward you the following year. I have grown mums for many many years (I have over 100 varieties!) and last year was the only year I ever cut them back in the fall. I just couldn't stand the messiness. Thank heavens I did not cut them all back. Because most of the ones I cut back did not survive.

As Greene pointed out they do need to be pinched several times. The general rule of thumb is three times before the Fourth of July. You can even save the parts you pinch off and root them into new plants. They are as easy as coleus when it comes to rooting a cutting.
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
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Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
Sep 30, 2014 8:21 AM CST
Here is mum care information from Faribault Growers/Mums of Minnesota
central Illinois
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Sep 30, 2014 8:50 AM CST
I support Ken's stance, leave the foliage over the mums over winter. Fall bought mums do not have time to settle in, become established before winter arrives and the large majority succumb to winter's onslaught.
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Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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Sep 30, 2014 10:44 AM CST
I agree with Jennifer. Do not buy the fancy ones in bloom in the fall. I don't grow them here in Florida, but I have planted several in my daughter's garden in Salt Lake City in recent years and for sure, the ones we planted in bloom in the fall never made it to springtime.

Buy good hardy varieties from a reputable nursery in the spring, and they will be truly perennial, bloom like crazy and last for many years. You can also divide the plants in the spring to spread around the ones you like best. Maybe ask your neighbors for a division of the nice ones they have? Again, divide in spring when the new growth is less than a few inches tall.

I also think they survive better if not cleaned up until spring. The dead stems help to mulch the plant, maybe?

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Annie
Waynesboro, PA (Zone 6a)
Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry
Sep 30, 2014 11:22 AM CST
Thank You! Thanks to everyone. I suspected that some of the varieties I'm seeing are not winter hardy, but wasn't sure. I am going to beg cuttings and divisions in the springtime and see what happens.
The end is nothing, the journey is all.
Lititz, PA (Zone 6b)
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Oct 3, 2014 6:39 AM CST
I have only one mum that was purchased at a local nursery and reliably returns. Mostly, I would plant them, they'd come back the next year but then die that winter so they would be enjoyed for a season. I'm not going to plant nursery mums anymore because by the time the mums come around, the annuals I have where the mums would go are going strong. IMO, my annual zinnias crush mums for color and bloom quantity.

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