Yard & Garden Report


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The Grand Finale!

Nothing can match the brilliance of mums in autumn. Learn how to select and overwinter mums.

Orange chrysanthemums
Chrysanthemums provide bursts of bright colors to landscapes in fall.

When you watch a fireworks show on the 4th of July, do you notice how they always save the best fireworks for last? It’s called the Grand Finale!

In flower beds, the Grand Finale is provided by chrysanthemums. While the flowers of summer begin to fade, all of a sudden we see a big burst of colors exploding from our mums!

Nothing can match the brilliance of mums in the fall. That’s why garden centers, hardware stores, and even grocery stores are full of mums for sale now.

Most of these mums will be enjoyed for a few weeks and then thrown away. That’s okay, but keep in mind that mums are perennial flowers. With a little care and luck, we can enjoy encore performances of fireworks in the garden next fall too!

Choose a sunny, well-drained site that is sheltered from harsh winter winds. Prepare a fertile soil bed and care for mums like other perennial flowers.

Plant early blooming, hardy cultivars. These are most likely found at garden centers and not at the local grocery store or florist shop.

When the soil freezes in November, place a 6-inch mound of mulch (hay, straw, evergreen boughs or shredded leaves) over the plants. Do not cut the plant stems; they can trap snow and insulate the crowns. With a little luck (and perhaps a blanket of snow), your mums will survive.

Next spring, pinch 1/2 inch off shoots when they get 6 to 8 inches long. This will keep the plants compact and bushy. Stop pinching shoots in mid to late June.

One last note: If you truly love mums, keep in mind that best results are achieved when perennials are planted in spring, not in fall. In this way, the plants have the entire growing season to get established before our brutal winter arrives. Next spring, look for hardy mums at the finest garden centers and online stores.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. The photo was made available under a Creative Commons license specified by the photographer: Martin LaBar.

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