MUMS ON THE REBOUND
By Marigay Black
Grayson County Master Gardener
We all enjoy the infusion of fall colors from our Chrysanthemums, whether in pots or in the ground, but three to four weeks after they’ve bloomed, we see the blooms and leaves fade to brown and become dry. The genus Chrysanthemum is in the family Asteraceae and are a perennial plant that will regenerate from their roots. What’s the best way to help your mums on the rebound?
Whether your plants are in the ground or in a pot, you can leave them all winter just as they are – brown stems and all. If you want to trim off the unsightly dead stems, trim them down to an inch or two above the soil line. These cut stems can be put into your compost bin if you have one. The roots need to be protected from our coldest temperatures with an inch or two of mulch or dry leaves, keeping the soil around the plant evenly moist and not soggy. In early Spring, the new growth will be visible at the crown of the plant where you’ll see new shoots beginning to emerge.
The mums will grow strongest in slightly acidic soil with an application of nitrogen and potassium when you see these little leaves emerging, usually in March. A time-released fertilizer works well so the roots will receive nutrients during their growth and may even put on new buds early in the season for a Springtime show. The blooms of mums respond to the number of hours of light in the day and the cool temperatures, so depending on what our crazy North Texas weather delivers, you may enjoy an extra season of blooms. This early show of blooms can be trimmed back as soon as the stems die back but not later than July, and one more dose of fertilizer applied, so that the plant has time to put on new growth and blooms for the Fall.
Mums prefer full sun but not our Texas heat in late summer. That’s why mums in pots work well – you can move the pot to a location that provides some protection from the late afternoon sun that can cook the leaves and steal your Fall show. Mums planted in the ground can be located around other plants that will provide some shade or in an area of your flower beds that receive afternoon shade.
One more factor to consider in helping your mums on the rebound is that the potted plants we buy from our nurseries can become root bound very quickly – maybe even when you bring them home. If you water your plants but they don’t seem to respond – they just remain wilted looking – they could be root bound. If you want to repot your mums, you can remove the plant from the pot and replant into a pot that is at least one size larger than the original pot. If you want to divide your mums, gently remove them and separate the roots. You can choose new pots for your divisions or transplant them into the ground. With pots, choose a good potting soil, many of which are formulated with fertilizer and the right mix for good drainage. If you’re planting into the ground, look for inground soil.
The last consideration for your mums is watching for pests and diseases. The most common pests that bother mums are aphids, thrips and spider mites. Aphids can be yellow or black and usually congregate along the stems, hiding under the leaves; thrips are slender, light to dark brown, winged (but they aren’t strong flyers); and spider mites are tiny red mites that spin webs on the underside of leaves. They will cause leaf and stem damage and can kill your mums if not detected in their early stages. The common diseases that attack mums are botrytis, rust, powdery mildew and viruses. My personal favorite go-to treatment as an insecticide and fungicide is Neem oil. It is non-chemical and effective. It can be purchased in a concentrate form which makes it economical. As always, read and follow label instructions carefully.
Here’s to enjoying Chrysanthemums in the future – on the rebound.
Grayson County Master Gardeners Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone 903-813-4204, our web page txmg.org/grayson, or our Facebook group.