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Plant Mums For A Head Start On Fall Color

Fall color is one of the scenic attractions to our area. However, leaves aren’t our only fall color. Flowers provide us with fall color as well. The chrysanthemum, or mum, is the first plant that comes to mind.

Mums are beginning to arrive at your favorite garden center, and everywhere else that sells plants. They’re available in a rainbow of colors and sizes. The color palette includes fall colors like orange, brown and purple. Cultivars are available in different shapes and sizes, too. You can buy them in nursery pots for transplanting into the ground, or you can buy them in hanging baskets and in decorative patio pots.

The original annuals you planted at the beginning of summer are probably long gone. In fact, you may have had to change them out at least once during the summer, especially if they fell victim to the hot, dry weather we just experienced.

Mums are long lasting. If you keep them watered and deadheaded, you could enjoy flowers all the way to the first killing frost. There are hundreds of cultivars. For our area, however, it’s best to choose those that are labeled “Hardy Mums.” These can be planted in the ground or in containers and, as long as you keep them watered and deadheaded, you’ll continue to enjoy flowers.

Mums like full sun and well drained soil. They like plenty of water but not wet feet. In some places, mums can be grown as perennials. Here, most are treated as annuals. One reason may be that areas of full sun aren’t sheltered in winter. If you want to try growing them as perennials, fertilize them with a high phosphorous (middle number) fertilizer and spread up to 4 inches of mulch.

Those mums growing in containers need special preparations for winter. They can be brought inside or, if you don’t have room for them in your home, try overwintering them in a cold frame with mulch around the container to help keep the roots warm.

Mums are very versatile plants. Having been hybridized since ancient times, you have so many sizes, shapes and flower colors to choose from that you can take advantage of their versatility to maintain a colorful garden right up until winter.

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