How To Plant Fall Garden Mums

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This article provides helpful tips for planting fall blooming chrysanthemums in the garden and in container gardens.
by Brett · All Zones · Planting · 0 Comments · September 03, 2014 · 12,968 views

So you want more flowers with vibrant color in your landscape during the fall season and have decided to plant some perennial garden mums. You've made an excellent choice!

Hundreds of hardy cultivars of mums can provide an array of colors and bloom shapes in the fall garden. The blooms last for weeks, not days, and the sheer number of flowers per plant will convince anyone that this flower really likes to show off. Add the mum's impressionistic abilities to its longevity, and you have a perennial plant that pulls its weight in the garden year after year.

Use Tips

Because of their tight, mounded habit and stunning bloom cover, mums are perfect for mass planting in small to large groupings. To get the maximum effect from far away, stick to only one or two colors. Another possibility is to arrange a gradual transition of related colors. When the planting will be viewed from up close plant every color you can find for a very wild but interesting effect. Look around your yard to see what colors would best complement the existing landscape. If you decorate for fall with pumpkins and gourds, choose orange, bronze, yellow, and creamy white mums. If you have a lot of evergreen plants that provide a backdrop of varying shades of green foliage, try bright pinks, lavenders, pure whites, or reds. With such bold colors, a large grouping of mums can excite even the most drab of fall landscapes.

Garden mums are also great for planting in containers and window boxes. See planting tips below.

Best Growing Conditions

In general, perennial garden mums will grow in USDA Zones 5 through 9.

Sun - Mums will flower best when growing in full sun. That being said, a little filtered sun during the hottest part of the day in hotter regions of the South is okay and will reduce supplemental water needs. Too much shade will diminish flowering and plants will become leggy.

Soil Type Preferred - Mums aren't too picky about soil type provided the soil is well-drained and rich in organic matter. In soil with low fertility or compact clay it'll be worth your time to mix in some organic compost to the native soil. They like a somewhat moist soil but not so much water that the soil stays constantly soggy or wet.

Soil pH Preferred - Mums thrive in a wide range soil pH (between 6.0 and 8.0) so pH shouldn't be a problem unless your soil is known to be heavily alkaline or acidic.

How To Plant Mums

Below and on the next page are general guidelines for properly planting mums in groupings in garden beds, individually in the landscape, and in container gardens.

In Groupings

Step 1 - If you intend on planting a grouping of mums start by outlining the shape of your bed on the ground with spray paint, baking flour, or a garden house. You can create any shape you want: round, pie-shape, square, rectangular, triangular, peanut, kidney bean, oblong, etc..

Step 2 - Then spray any grass or weeds growing inside the outlined area with a solution of a glyphosphate-based weed killer, such as Hi-Yield Killzall or Roundup. (Hint: Roundup is the most expensive glyphosate-based product on the market.) Your local nursery and garden center will carry these products or you can buy weed and grass killers here online. After spraying, wait until the spray has dried on the foliage of weeds to start start planting. This suaully takes at least 2 hours. When using any chemical, always follow instructions for use on the product label.

Step 3 - To ensure your garden bed has good drainage it's best to plant mums in at least a slightly raised mound. Use a round point shovel to trench around the outline of the flower bed to a depth of about 6". Throw dirt from trench into a pile inside the bed. Then till or turn a half-inch or so of compost or soil amendment, such as bagged composted cow manure or mushroom compost, to a depth of 6 inches or so throughout the garden bed. For larger beds, it might be necessary to bring in extra native top soil to raise your garden bed to a minimum height of 3" at the center of the bed. The main thing you are trying to do is create a soil mixture that will be somewhat light, well-drained, but still hold moisture evenly.

Step 5 - After thoroughly tilling or turning in the amendments, use a hard rake (garden rake) to form and smooth a mound that will be 3 inches or more in height at the center and gradually tapered to ground level at the perimeter of the garden bed. I usually start by raking from the perimeter of the flowerbed inwards towards the center. Now you are ready to plant.

Step 6 - Remove the mum plants from their containers and space them over the surface of the planting bed at a distance as suggested on the plant tag. I usually space mums a minimum of 2 feet apart. Remember, these plants are perennials that will return from year to year and will increase in size over time. I always start with a row around perimeter of bed and then stagger plants towards the inside of the perimeter row, and so on towards the center until the bed is full.

Step 7 - Before planting, it's a good idea to carefully loosen roots around the perimeter of the root ball to a depth of half an inch or so. Then, while holding the plant so that the top edge of the root ball is level with the soil surface, gently backfill around the root ball with your soil mixture.

Step 8 - When all of the plants have been planted you can broadcast weed preventer granules over the surface of bed for season-long weed prevention. Most local nursery and garden centers carry these products or you can buy a weed preventer for flowerbeds online here.

Step 9 - Apply a shredded wood mulch and give your new garden bed a thorough soaking. Thereafter, in the absence of rainfall, water as necessary to keep soil moist, but not constantly soggy. It's best to water during the early to mid-morning hours and never at night! Since you mums will have been fertilized by the grower there is no need to feed your newly planted mums. You can feed them in spring with a good flower food.

Individually in Landscape Beds

Step 1 - Dig a hole at least twice as wide and a little deeper than the rootball is tall. Place the native soil removed from the planting hole around the perimeter of the hole.

Step 2 - Depending on the fertility and porosity of the native soil, you might need to add a soil amendment to enhance drainage and soil quality. When planting in heavy clay soil, it's a good idea to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter such as composted cow manure, mushroom compost, or a good planting mix at a 25 to 50% ratio with the clay soil. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider adding in some peat moss and or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in fertile, well-draining soil there's no need to add any soil amendment.

Then follow Steps 7-9 above.

Container planting instructions are on next page


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