Fall planted mums can put on a beautiful display but often they don't return the following year. Here are some tips for fall planting which will help your mums return along with some maintenance pointers for next year.
Make sure your planting beds drain well; this is a must! Amend your beds with Back to Nature's Flower Bed Conditioner which will loosen clay soil, improve drainage and add fertility. Put the extra effort into preparing the soil for your perennial beds correctly from the start. Remember you may add, divide or move plants but you probably won't re-do the whole bed; so fix it right the first time! Mums thrive in full sun but will tolerate a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun.
Fall mums put a lot of energy into flowering and often the root system is fragile. The root system has to extend beyond the root ball into the surrounding soil for the plant to survive the winter; they'll require some extra care. You've already amended the soil so now dig the planting hole slightly larger and deeper than the root ball. Fill the planting hole with water then let it drain down, this will hydrate the surrounding area. Always keep in mind you want those roots to spread out and take hold. Next gently loosen the roots up. Slightly tear the side and bottom roots. Apply Dr. Earth's Starter Fertilizer per instructions on the bag to the bottom of the planting hole and to the root ball, if you use too much don't worry it won't burn! Dr. Earth Starter Fertilizer contains Mycorrhizal Fungi which penetrate growing plant root tissues, surround the root mass and extend far into the surrounding soil, encompassing a much greater volume of soil, a much greater volume of soil than occupied by the plant's own roots and root hair system. Place the root ball in the planting hole and tuck soil around the sides and firm the plant into the soil. Water well again, after the water settles place some more around the top of the hole and firm in place to remove any air pockets. After the second hard frost mulch around the plant with 1 to 2 inches of mulch and walk around the plant to compact the mulch in place. DO NOT place the mulch directly on the stem of the plant, this can cause crown rot.
Keeping your newly planted mums watered properly is a must! Mums need at least 1 inch of water a week. Warm weather requires daily watering. You can't assume that fall weather being cool and damp is enough to get your mums thru the season well watered. Mum plants drying out in late fall is the largest reason fall planted mums don't return. If you disconnect your hose because of upcoming cold temperatures get Daddy to go to the laundry tub with a 5 gallon bucket to water the Mummies!
After the mums are done flowering cut off the flower heads and leave the plant as is thru the winter until new growth appears in the spring, then the dead branches can be cut off. When the ground begins to freeze check your mums for heaving above ground, they will lift above ground an inch or two in the same shape of the pot they were planted in creating an air pocket under the roots which will fill with ice and cut loose any established roots. Firm the plants back into the ground; add more mulch if necessary (this often happens with other fall planted perennials). Evergreen branches from Christmas trees make excellent winter mulch for mums and other perennials. Wait until the first snow cover then lay a double layer of branches over your planting beds. Branches are easy to remove in spring; I place them in my compost pile.
In the spring add some Dr. Earth Bud and Bloom Fertilizer to the soil around the returning mums and gently work it into the soil, water well. To encourage branching and development of compact bushy plants, it's VERY IMPORTANT to pinch back your garden mums in the spring as soon as the new growth is 4-6 inches tall. Use your thumbnail and index finger to pinch about ½ half the new growth on each shoot. Repeat this procedure through the summer whenever new shoots are 3-5 inches long. In the Chicago area stop pinching by the 4th of July. After the last pinch your garden mums will more than double in size.
Mums mix so well with pansies, asters, and ornamental kale and cabbage. Pesche's is well stocked with all these fall favorites. Highlight the season. Stop in today!