Master Gardeners It’s fall and time for Mums

Published 4:21 pm Saturday, October 26, 2019

By Sheri Bethard

Orange County Master Gardeners


You know it is fall is around the corner when you start seeing Chrysanthemums, Mums for short, in the stores. Mums come in a variety of fall colors, orange, rust, yellow, red, purple and white. This plant blooms during the fall and springtime of the year when the days are shorter. It is called a short-day plant since it does not require long days (12 hours or more) of light to set blooms. In order for the ones you see in the stores to start blooming when we still have longer daylight hours, the growers manipulate the amount of light Mums receive each day. They darken their greenhouses after the required amount of light is given to the plants. 

Mums can be grown in containers or in the ground in our area depending on how you plan your landscaping. Mums are not picky when it comes to soil type as they will grow in just about any kind of soil, especially if it is a little on the sandy side. It should be well-drained and have a neutral pH level. 

Mums do not require much fertilization but adding a little balanced formulation such as 5-10-5 once a season will help with the blooms. They grow best in full sun with at least 5 hours of direct sunlight for continuous blooming. The less light the weaker and fewer blooms you will have.

Mums have shallow roots, which might require more water than other plants, especially in drier times. If you plant in the ground, adding a layer of mulch will help keep the moisture in.

Once the blooms start fading, it is best to “deadhead” those blooms to encourage new blooms and growth. Mums can grow up to a foot tall. After the Mum has completed its blooming cycle, cut it back to about 4 inches in height to encourage new growth for the next season, but this is not really necessary. 

Mums can be propagated from cuttings, seeds or even dividing plants. Remember, check to see if the variety you have is patented, if so, you cannot propagate without permission. If growing from seed, it should be started at least two months before the first frost of the year. If taking a cutting, snip on that is about 4-5 inches in length, remove the bottom leaves and plant under a bright light until it takes root. You can use rooting hormone as well. Be sure your equipment has been sterilized before cutting. 

Mums do have problems with pests and diseases, which include:

  • Leaf Spots: This is a disease that happens in warm, humid weather that will leave little brown spots on the surface of the leaves.
  • Botrytis: This is a moldy fungus that occurs when the plant does not have good circulation.
  • Root Rot: This is something that happens when the plant does not have soil with enough drainage.
  • Powdery Mildew: This is a white fungus that can be seen on the leaves of these plants when the weather is humid, and the plants are not spaced properly.
  • Aphids: These are tiny insects that can be seen feeding on the underside of the leaves. One of the best ways to determine if you have aphids in your garden is that the foliage will have a sticky residue on them that may attract ants to the plant.
  • Leafminers: These are small insects that burrow under the surface of the leaves. These insects will not kill the plant.
  • Spider Mites: These tiny insects are only about the size of a grain of pepper. They can cause the leaves of the plant to turn yellow.
  • Thrips: These pests attack the leaves of the plants and leave them discolored.

Other plants that are good for fall colors are Crotons, Ornamental Peppers, Ornamental Grasses, Marigolds, Snapdragons, Yellow & Orange Nasturtiums, Reddish-Purple Celosia,  Artemisia Silver King, Coleus hybrids, Purple Asters, Autumn Joy Stonecrop just to name a few along with pumpkins.

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