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Creating a Beautiful Fall Chrysanthemum Show

 

Supplies:

One or more chrysanthemum plants

           

 

The most spectacular autumn gardens include one or more beautiful chrysanthemum plants. Mums are very easy to care for, and require just a little attention once a month during the growing season. Investing less than a minute of your time per month, per mum, will pay off with a display of color in the fall that might take your breath away.

 

 

 

Mums come in all colors, shapes and sizes . . .

Easy-growing cushion mums, like these, are good choices for kids.

 

 

Of course mums need good sunshine and water throughout the summer as well. They thrive in well-dug, enriched soil, and are perky, green garden residents all summer long.

 

But once a month - a lots of chrysanthemum gardeners do this on the first of the month, to remember - they need to be "pinched back."

 

That means that any tiny flower buds that have developed need to be removed so that the mum plant doesn't flower too soon. It's not unusual for the first buds to appear around June 1, but in your garden they may come later. It's OK to pinch back even if the color of the petals is showing; there's still time in the growing season for that stem to bud again.

 

All you do to pinch a bud back is to grasp the stem a few inches underneath the bud with your thumb and forefinger. Using your thumbnail as a sort of little bitty knife, you "cut" the tender stem, removing the bud and a few leaves with it. Throw what you've pinched away, or compost it.

 

The mum plant will still look perky and green in the garden, but getting pinched signals to the plant to make more food from the sunlight and water, and grow even stronger, to produce buds again.

 

Most gardeners pinch their mum plants back, or at least check for buds, on June 1, July 1 and Aug. 1. After that, they leave them alone. Then the rich, thick buds appear around Sept. 1 or a little later, and burst into gorgeous bloom in late September and early October.

 

            And you'll be so proud!

 

            When the flowers fade, you can cut them off with scissors or clippers and the green part of the mum plant will look nice 'til the first frost. Once everything is brown, break off or clip off the entire above-ground plant and discard or compost. Leave the roots, of course, for next year's growth. It's a good idea to rake some leaves or mulch over the area to cut down on the damage of the cold winter winds.

 

One more tip about mums: after about three years, you probably have too many sprouts in one mum plant, and they'll grow too tall and flop over in an unpleasant way. Mums that have become overgrown need to be divided.

 

All that means is that you dig up the "mother" mum plant, split it, roots and all, into about 8 new plants, and transplant far enough away from other plants so that it can spread out as wide as it likes. You'll need to loosen the soil, add some compost, and maybe add some bone meal, which is good for root growth for transplants.

 

You can do this in early spring when the new sprouts are short, or at the end of the fall, cutting off the spent mum flowers so that you're just basically transplanting sticks with a few leaves and roots. Be sure to keep the new divisions watered 'til the first hard frost, and next year, your mum show will be even bigger!

 

By Susan Darst Williams • www.KidsGardenClub.org • Practices 13 © 2012

 

 

 

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