Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Secret of Hardy Mums


I've said before that I love mums, but in the past the mums must not have loved me. I've bought them, planted them, and enjoyed their lovely blooms at a time of year when there isn't a great lot of color in the garden. Then spring comes, and they don't. I remember two autumns ago when I bought a lot of the Prophet Series mums (by Yoder Brothers) and lost every single one of them.

Ouch.

I transferred my affections to asters, and while I do love them, they aren't mums. But I'm not a quitter, and I usually get what I want.

And I. Want. Mums.

So I did some research. I can be taught, and I just knew there was some way to grow beautiful mums for more than one season. I have seen many people do it without even trying, so there must be some way for me to do it, too.

I will say that I've had great success with certain types of mums. Those that are labeled as Dendranthema work well for me. They're usually more of a daisy-type mum and that's okay with me, because I like daisies very much and with them coming in all sorts of colors, that's just all the better. 'Clara Curtis' and 'Bolero' are two that fall into that category. And they spread quickly.

'Clara Curtis'

I have read that Dendranthema is the formerly correct botanical name for what is now classified as Chrysanthemum, but I have found that the mums labeled Dendranthema look different, as I've said. I don't really know what to say about that. I'd like to hear from someone in the know as to why I'm successful with 'Clara Curtis' but not so much with the plain old garden mums.

Those Prophet Series mums are supposed to be fairly hardy, so why weren't they hardy for me? What was I doing wrong? I longed for their wide variation in colors and their volumes of blooms.

This year I saw some Belgian mums. What makes these different or special? I was in a Meijer store and overheard a woman asking the help about them. They mentioned that they were supposed to be a little hardier. So of course, I came home and checked them out online.

Hardiness notwithstanding, these mums are known for their number of blooms. A cushion-type, they've got hundreds on one plant, though they're smaller in size. The stems are stronger, too. How many times have you broken a stem while planting mums? Belgian mums can take more abuse. I read too, that they can bloom in the spring as well. Trim off the spent blooms and then they'll bloom beautifully in the fall. No pinching back until the 4th of July for these either.

I bought one. We'll see how it does. All I really care about is the hardiness.

'High Regards'

But what about the mums I already have and the ones that I long to have? How to get them not to succumb to winter's icy grasp?

Besides making sure the mums I'm buying are indeed hardy garden mums and not the florist mums (which are not hardy here in Zone 5), here's the thing: They need good drainage. Yep. That's it. It's the number one reason for mum failure. They like rich soil, but they'll grow okay in poor dirt. You can fertilize them for more blooms, but they'll bloom very well without it. They like sun or partial shade, but they'll bloom some in full shade, too. But wet feet? They hate it.

This can be a bit tricky, I'm thinking, since they're relatively shallow-rooted. They like it moist right at the surface, but they don't like staying in a cold, wet hole during the winter. So last fall, I made sure I planted the mums my mom passed on to me in soil that I knew would drain well. Every single one of them returned this spring.

A couple more tips: Don't prune them back. The dead stems and foliage will help protect them during the winter. Select and plant them in the spring. This will give them a better chance to become established.


Buoyed by my success, I purchased more mums this spring and a few in late summer. They're strutting their stuff right now and I'm loving it. If they are still around next spring, it will be confirmation that I've conquered my mum difficulties. I think I see more mums in Our Little Acre's future!

'Bolero'

19 comments:

Cindy said...

Your past issues with mums sounded like my problems except I was scratching my head because we don't have cold winters like you do. Then I got to the part in your post about good drainage. Bingo! That's why mums don't do well here. Our soil has such a high clay content that the mums probably were upset about wet tootsies. So you've solved a mystery for me, dear Kylee! Thank you!

Hugs,
Cindy

Kylee said...

You want to talk clay? BRING IT ON! Ours has to be the worst. In fact, the major industry here years ago was a clay tile factory. My mom thinks we should be making pottery instead of growing flowers. LOL.

We have amended our garden soil in the last couple of years, but with so many, it takes awhile to get it all amended. Most of the gardens are fine now, but there are still some rock hard areas.

Don't give up!

Frances said...

Hi Kylee, that Bolero is a beauty. We have the same problem here and it is not the cold, it is the type of mum. I also bought whole flats of the prophet series and lost every one. They are just not hardy. Our local nursery where she grows the stuff herself and is very knowledgable said the hardy mums are Korean in origin. They are looser and daisy flowered. Our number one is called Sheffield Pink, look for it. It is similar to Clara but a little more peachy. They are probably sisters. I will check out the Belgian ones, but all those blooms are a red flag to me. We've got the drainage, so that is not the problem either. Could it just be luck? ;->
Frances
new url
http://fairegarden.wordpress.com/

Kylee said...

Wow, Frances. If YOU can't grow the Prophets, then I might as well forget it! But the ones my mom gave me made it through the winter this last year, so maybe it IS just plain luck.

I wholeheartedly agree with you about the form being key. I'm familiar with 'Sheffield Pink' and honestly I can't tell the difference between it and 'Clara Curtis'. But you're right - it's the looser stemmed and daisy types that do better. And they spread like crazy, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned!

Defining Your Home said...

Great info and great photos! Maybe I'll try again, too. Right now, I have only 2 in pots and treat them like annuals! Cameron

Kylee said...

Cameron, that's what a lot of people around here are doing, too. Too many of us have been burned. That's how I came to acquire my mom's this fall. She knew I was willing to give them a try in the ground. I have them on the south side of the house for more warmth, and the soil has been amended so as to have good drainage. Oh, and mulch will be spread soon to further protect them.

I remember seeing last year that many of the online nurseries had a note that they wouldn't guarantee hardy mums hardiness even though their tags said they were hardy to zone 5. I guess they'd been burned more than a few times, too.

Dave said...

Those are some good mum tips. Especially about not cutting them back. I don't cut back the foliage on my perennials until spring to give them extra frost protection.

joey said...

Great photos, Kylee, and a great informative post making me feel guilty. (Now in the confessional, I must whisper ... I treat mums like annuals and whisk them away in the spring making precious room in my garden needed for other plants I covet more ... so there I said it ... forgive me mums, for I have sinned). Can I return and covet yours?

Yolanda Elizabet said...

More plants are killed of by the wet each winter than there are killed by frost. Most plants hate wet feet and mums are no exception.

Good luck with your mums and hopefully Our Little Acre will turn into a mum haven!

Patsi said...

I think you're right.
All mine planted in the fall failed year after year.
But one of two planted in spring has done well 3 years later.
Darn! Now I have to get some more come spring.

Carolyn gail said...

Dr. Know here, Kylee. 'Clare Curtis', 'Bolero ', 'Samba' and 'Rhumba ' are Korean Mums; Koreans are hardy and have a climate as harsh as Chicago so anything that'll grow there will certainly survive here.

I've done several posts on these amazing Mums ( including today ) and I see that some gardeners, including you , have begun to discover and delight in them.

As I said in today's post I'm a stubborn old southern woman set in my ways and I just can't bring myself to call the Mums Dendrantemum.

Rosemary said...

thanks for the info on mums I love them too but can't seem to get them through our winters will look for hardier ones and keep trying.

Kylee said...

Dave ~ Same here, unless it's the hostas. I do cut back their mushy remains so I don't provide a home for insects I don't want. Or slugs. UGH.

Joey ~ A lot of people around here treat them as annuals, too, Joey. So don't feel guilty! What you might want to do is plant them at some point and hope for the best. You just might get some of them to stick around! Sure, you can covet mine! (As long as I have them! LOL)

Yolanda Elizabet ~ It's somewhat difficult around here to avoid wet soil in the winter, unless you amend it. It's just heavy clay and its the bane of every gardener. It used to be a swamp here and I guess you just can't take the swamp out entirely. Still, it's good farmland when it's had drainage tile installed. Lots of nutrients in it! But growing corn, beans, and wheat is a tad bit different than growing perennials. There are those that thrive in that kind of soil though, even if you do nothing to it.

Patsi ~ More mums for Patsi! :-)

Carolyn Gail ~ You know, now that you mention it, I remember reading about the Korean mums and I'm sure it had to be on your blog. I've had 'Clara Curtis' for a couple of years now and love it. I got 'Bolero' last year and it's doing well. I bought 'Rhumba' this summer and it's just getting ready to break buds.
Thanks for the reminder! I'd forgotten about the Korean mum info!

Rosemary ~ Don't give up!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Maybe good drainage is the key for these shallow rooted plants. I stuck a mum in for color right beside the porch and it has come back year after year. I have one other out in the garden but it is on a slight slope so it is defintiely well drained. hmmmm Like you I have had little luck with most. After reading your post I might have to try a couple more. I do love to see those brilliant blooms this time of year. Here the butterflies like the ones that look like a daisy best.

Ottawa Gardener said...

I have to admit it. I love mums too and have been blessed with well draining soil so mostly they have come back even those that would be borderline hardy in our zone 4 (american) / zone 5a (canadian) garden. Yours look spectactular!

Anna said...

This was a great article. I have avoided mums for the reasons you stated. I'm got to jot down the ones you said were hardy. I really enjoyed reading your information.

Kylee said...

Lisa ~ Mums are such a fall staple here, that it just wouldn't be the same without the colorful mums. I love the way they smell, too! Plus, they have a natural mosquito repellent in them! I wish you good luck with your mums!

Ottawa Gardener ~ I'm impressed! Zone 4 and they come back for you! Well done!

Anna ~ Thanks, Anna. 'Rhumba' is now blooming, too, and I'd recommend that one as well. It's more of a daisy-type.

Barbara said...

Up to now I wasn't lucky with overwintering mums either, though they had a good drainage and were planted in pots. Every year I have a go, it won't be different this year. But a gardener is hopeful ;-) and optimistic !! BTW here these mums are available in the gardencenters only in autumn. Perhaps they are artificially forced to bloom just for a short period, who knows ;-)!

Kylee said...

Barbara, the cushion-types are generally only available here in the fall, too. But I've found the daisy-type earlier in the season, both in nurseries and online.

We do love our challenges, don't we? ;-)

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