Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Secret of Hardy Mums (Repost)

I've already been asked several times about how to get mums to survive our winter, so I'm reposting an earlier blog post about the subject... 

'Amor Coral'
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.


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. (Update: They didn't survive.)

'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.

'Red Dandy'
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!



Jim/ArtofGardening said...

Damn - I knew there had to be a secret. I planted mums years ago and they all died. I tried a couple other times over the years. They all perished. I then decided I hated mums and mum growers just wanted a bit of my annual plant budget. I may have to retry this year.

Jan Bills said...

And now I know the secret to beautiful Mums! Thanks Kylee! *hugs*

Diane said...

My grandma is one of those who just plants mums and they come back, year after year, while mine quietly expire. I've tried and failed with them as long as I've had the garden, and at some point I acquired a single plant that has been hardy for many years, a gorgeous orange one with that classic "mum look." I treasure that plant, and otherwise have learned to embrace the asters!

F Cameron said...

Beautiful! I love mums, too. The ones that I planted in spring, after purchasing three years ago are back and ready to bloom. The foliage is evergreen here, so that's another advantage for me. In spite of the September dry spell and heat, the deer and rabbits ignored the mums!

Sorry that I've been away so long. Trying to think about gardening again. Had lunch with Helen and Carolyn yesterday, so that helped!

Darla said...

You hit the nail on the head here. Do you have Sheffield Mums? My will be blooming in a week or two, they are pasted to me from my mother's gardens after she passed. They spread and are gorgeous, I'll be posting them soon and will share if you like. I have them in the garden for years.

Annelie said...

I've had no problem having mums overwinter in my garden, and I pay no attention to zone when I buy them, nor do I mulch them. Although, I am in zone 6, so I suppose that could make a difference.
I have the daisy style working its way over a hill like a ground cover, a bit invasive actually. And then a few other kinds here and there. I've noticed that the daisy kind only seem to want to bloom on its newly acclaimed land, making for a lot of green and little splash.
Perhaps they would benefit from a bit TLC?


garden girl said...

In my experience, spring-planted mums seem to be much more reliably perennial than fall-planted mums. I've found that in this, and in previous gardens. They're pretty scarce in nurseries around here in the spring though, and when they can be found, the selection is very limited.

I hope all of yours make it through the winter Kylee!

flowerman said...

Chrysanthemums...Sunset zone 7 western Sierras...I have several varieties of mums (they were here when we bought the place)..Most all of my beds are raised, for the very reason you wet feet. I have a de-composed granite bed-rock that has, at most, 36" of soil on top...drainage is of utmost importance...My problem with mums is the extreme heat in summer..afternoon shade they must have ( they have to survive 100 degree days all summer with no rain fall for 4-5 months)

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