No need to discard mums when they finish blooming

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Chrysanthemums are everywhere at garden centers and all kinds of stores this fall. Many people discard them when they finish blooming, but they can be planted in the landscape because they are perennials.

If you would like to plant them, mums generally grow well in any soil capable of producing a good crop of vegetables or turf. They grow in poorer soils if ample nutrients and organic matter are incorporated.

Mums require well-drained soils because of their relatively shallow root system. In poorly drained soils, soil-borne diseases might injure many plants during wet summer periods, while winter-killing is likely if water stands around crowns during occasional winter thaws. Depressions that might collect water should be leveled. Raised beds are always a good idea. Winter kill can also occur if unadapted varieties are grown or if plants dry out during the winter.

Mums develop best when they receive full sun most or all day. Plants grown in shady or semi-shady locations tend to grow taller, have weaker stems and smaller flowers, and bloom later in the fall. Try to avoid planting in areas where there will be competition with trees for light and water.

Before planting mums, spade or till the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. This provides favorable planting conditions for mum growth by improving soil aeration and reducing soil compaction. Adding organic matter such as well-rotted manure, leaf mold, compost or peat moss improves the soil structure and the water holding capacity of the soil.

It might be necessary to use fertilizers when a particular soil is deficient in some elements. Nitrogen is the element most likely to be deficient in Georgia soils. On some occasions, soils might need additional phosphorus and potassium.

Plants can be fertilized four weeks after planting and again periodically during the growing season, but excessive amounts of fertilizer cause elongated, leggy growth and fewer flowers. During the summer it is best to pinch back growth to keep the plants growing in a more compact manner.

Newly set mum plants should be kept uniformly moist, not wet, during establishment. Do not let established plants suffer from the lack of water during the growing season, but avoid overwatering them. One good watering or rain per week is usually adequate for most soils, but in sandy soils, they may need it every four to five days.

Try to keep weeds from growing around your plants. Keeping them mulched helps a lot. You can even do a light cultivation to keep weeds down, but avoid deep cultivation as you can damage the roots and rhizomes of the plants.

Reach Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County, at (706) 821-2349 or smullis@uga.edu.


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