Mum's the word, now's the time Garden: Fall's potted chrysanthemums can be planted to bloom again.

September 29, 1996|By Nancy Brachey | Nancy Brachey,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

No matter the season, you see chrysanthemums: white ones in wedding bouquets, pink ones in spring arrangements, yellow ones sharing the limelight with summer's zinnias.

But those are florists' flowers, their stems already cut. For the gardener, chrysanthemums are the autumn flower, one of the bright delights of a colorful season.

Their rich bronzes, brick reds, golden yellows and mauve pinks clearly say it's fall.

Many of you have chrysanthemums in flower beds that will open soon and brighten the scene throughout fall. Even if they're not already in your garden, you can still enjoy the chrysanthemum season with potted mums. They're in garden centers and groceries, at flower shops and roadside stands, where you'll see mums in pots, full of buds and ready to set on decks and patios, steps and stoops.

However, they must be kept well-watered. Each time a plant wilts, its flower life is reduced by one day, mum studies have shown.

Water the potted plant every other day.

Often you see florists' mums with especially large flowers. This is the result of disbudding, a tedious process by which the smaller side buds are removed in the greenhouse to allow the bud at the tip of each stem to develop far larger than normal.

Potted mums grown outdoors usually aren't disbudded; so they have the many, normal-sized blooms. They have, however, been carefully shorn at regular intervals through the growing season to maintain a short, compact size.

When these potted plants finish blooming after a month or so, don't throw them out. You can plant them in the garden.

In the South, where mums start growing early, the plants put out enough new growth in the early spring -- before days get long -- to set buds and bloom. They are timed by nature to set buds during short-day, long-night months of the year.

You can avoid this by trimming the plants back by one-third to one-half every month or so until early July. Then, let the plants grow and set buds for bloom in September and October.

This cutting back will produce shorter, bushier plants with more flowers. The plants will be less likely to need staking.

Mums left to overwinter in large pots (not the small ones they were sold in) usually survive, but plants perform better in subsequent years when planted in the garden.

The easy rules for growing chrysanthemums:

Soil must be fertile and well-drained. Lighten clay soil with compost, peat moss or commercial topsoil.

Full sun is best, although a little shade during the late afternoon should not inhibit good growth and bloom. Chrysanthemums don't prosper in the shade.

When setting out potted plants, make the hole a third or more larger than the pot.

Remove the mums from the pots and space the plants about 15 inches apart. Once they are placed in the ground, finish filling the hole with soil and gently firm it around the roots.

Water newly planted mums slowly and thoroughly, so the water seeps into the root ball. Do not fertilize the plants until they begin growing next spring.

In late November or December, cut back the tops of the plants to about 2 to 3 inches. This will prevent damage to the roots that could be caused by heavy ice or snow dislodging the roots.

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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