It’s Mum Time!

September 4, 2016 lawanda Newspaper Columns

      The entryways of plant nurseries, grocery stores, drug stores and department stores are filled with beautiful pots of chrysanthemums in an array of gorgeous fall colors.  Soon all those pots of mums will migrate to front porches, decks and sidewalks throughout the area.

      Don’t be quick to buy the biggest most spectacular plants you see.  In order for the plants to sport hundreds of blossoms, they have likely been in their pots for a very long time.  They may be root bound, which means that all that you’ll find inside the pot is a tangle of circling roots and very little potting soil.  A root bound mum plant will have a much shorter life than one with plenty of potting soil.  Pick up the pot before you buy.  It should feel heavy and solid for its size and not top heavy. 

      As tempting as it is to buy a mum plant full of open blooms for instant beautification, you are better off buying a plant with more unopened buds than fully opened ones for a longer season of bloom.  Each individual bloom has a short shelf life so unless you absolutely must have mum decorations in place immediately, remember this:  “Buy the buds.”           

      When you get the pot home, water it well, drenching the soil until water runs out the bottom of the pot.  Mums can be placed directly in a sunny location without a period of adjustment, as most of them have been in the sun outside the stores while awaiting their new homes.

      The smaller the pot, the more often you’ll have to water, perhaps as often as every day.  Larger pots may be fine for a few days. 

      To keep plants producing new blossoms, deadhead spent blooms by clipping them with a scissors.  This can be tedious on a large plant, but so worthwhile when you’ve invested quite a bit of money on a relatively short-lived plant.

      If you get the plant home and find you’ve inadvertently purchased a root bound plant, all is not lost.  Remove the plant from its pot and set it in a bucket of water while you prepare a larger pot with fresh potting soil.  Use a knife to make vertical ½-inch deep slices into the mass of roots from top to bottom.  This will encourage the roots to grow into the fresh soil once in the larger pot.  Water well when the plant is in its new pot.

      One of the most-asked questions about mums is, “If I plant them in the ground at the end of the growing season will they grow next year?”  The answer is “maybe.”  They will have a much better chance of survival if they are planted in the ground as soon as you purchase them so that they can develop a good root system before winter.  Mulch around the plants after the grounds has frozen with evergreen boughs, straw, or pine needles, making sure to keep the mulch from touching the stems.

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