Originally created 09/26/03

Mums are thriving perennials



Chrysanthemums are fall favorites that are commonly discarded when they finish blooming, but they are perennials that can be planted in the landscape.

Mums thrive in soil capable of producing a good crop of vegetables or turf. They grow in poorer soil if ample nutrients and organic matter are incorporated. Mums require well-drained soil because of their relatively shallow root system. Plant in raised beds, or level out depressions that might collect water.

Winter kill can occur if unadapted varieties are grown or if plants desiccate (dry out) during the winter.

Mums develop best in full, daylong sun. Plants grown in shade or partial shade tend to grow taller (be leggy), have weaker stems and smaller flowers, and bloom later in the fall.

Before planting mums, spade or till the soil to a depth of 8-12 inches to improve soil aeration and reduce soil compaction. Adding organic matter such as well-rotted manure, leaf mold, compost or peat moss improves soil structure and water holding capacity.

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

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

Mulching will help reduce weeds. You can even do a light cultivation to keep weeds down, but avoid deep cultivation that may damage roots and rhizomes.

Fall planting

Fall is the best time of year to plant shrubs, but you have to do it right. Here are some common planting mistakes:

  • Planting too many plants for the site, particularly one-gallon shrubs. The temptation is to get a full look right away, but in a few years, the plants will be overcrowded and need to be constantly pruned or removed or replaced.
  • Planting shrubs that will get too tall for the site. A one-gallon Burford holly soon will cover the windows and require severe pruning to keep it in check.
  • Planting shrubs that prefer dry soil in wet areas, plants that prefer sun in shade, and vice versa. Plants that are not adapted to the conditions that exist will never be as healthy or look as good as they might. Never force a situation on a plant that it does not like, just because you think you like it there.
  • Planting shrubs too close to the house. I see this all the time and I even inherited this situation at my own house. Shrubs should be planted one half their mature diameter plus one foot away. So, a plant that will be six feet wide at maturity should be planted four feet (three feet plus one foot) away from the house foundation. Planting too close makes it hard to get to parts of the house you may need to paint, clean, or work on.
  • Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call 821-2349, or send e-mail to smullis@uga.edu.