Use mums to keep fall landscapes bright

Published 10:51 am Monday, September 5, 2022

By Gary R. Bachman
MSU Extension Service

September and October have many home gardeners wondering what to do with their landscapes for the next couple of months. Summer annuals are nearly worn out, and the weather is still too warm for winter color to be established.

I have found fall mums to be an ideal bridge crop. Their colorful blooms put on an easy and reliable display for our current in-between period. The plants seem to have hundreds of flowers, so the impact is immediate.

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Incorporating fall garden mums into the landscape is easy. My favorite way to use fall garden mums is to display them in containers on the front porch or back patio. They also can be planted into landscape beds.

If you need instant impact, then choose a plant in full flower. To extend the display period, select plants that have tight flower buds with just a little bit of color showing. Over time, the buds will open up, making the flowers last longer.

Mums come in so many colors that there is sure to be a selection to fit your home color scheme.

In the past, mums of the same color were typically used together, but don’t be afraid to combine different colors in the same container. Be sure to select fall mums with their end use in mind.

In my experience, buying mums with tight buds means every once in a while, you get a surprise. Plants can get mixed up during production at the greenhouse, and those mums that you thought were going to have yellow flowers suddenly open up red or white.

Mums come in a variety of container sizes. A 4-inch plant is great component in a gorgeous autumnal combination container. Those that come in larger container sizes — 8-inch pots or bigger — make great standalone specimens.

When combined with a decorative container, the visual impact of mums can be dramatic. There is no need to transplant; just slip the mum, container and all, into the larger pot.

Always keep your fall mums in full sun, as this promotes the very best flower opening and color development.

Whether planted in the ground or kept in a container, be sure to keep your mums consistently watered. This is a greater challenge when growing your mums in containers. If the soil is dry, it’s time to water your mums. Do not let them wilt.

Once a flowering fall mum is water-stressed, it turns off flowering. This doesn’t necessarily kill the plant, but the flowering will not recover. Don’t water the foliage, but direct water to the base of the plant and continue until water starts to flow from the bottom of the container.

Fall mums are treated as seasonal annuals to be removed when the flowers have faded and replaced with the next season’s flowers.

So, whether you are decorating for a tailgate party or freshening up the landscape until cool-season plants start their show, consider fall mums for their instant splash of color.