Mum's the Word

Kim EllsonAug 26, '20
Mum's the Word

Whether they are grown as cut flowers, potted houseplants or as an outdoor fall crop, it would be hard to imagine the horticultural and floral industry without them.  Chrysanthemums are in fact a grower’s delight, both private and commercial, due to their vast advantageous characteristics; versatility, diversity, multitude and longevity of floral blooms; rapid growth rate and relatively trouble-free nature.

When summer draws to an end, having been spoilt with an abundance of floral displays throughout the warm months, many of our plantings are now looking a little worse for wear and sadly have to be removed.  This leaves us faced with the question of what to plant enjoy some more color before we are faced with the bleakness of winter.  Choices are more limited in the autumn months and consist largely of mums, pansies, ornamental- kales, -cabbages and -peppers. 

Now many people find themselves confused about what is a hardy mum and what is not.  Let me try and shed some light on this matter.  Firstly always avoid mums that have been grown in indoor greenhouse settings, known as florist mums, as these have not been conditioned to the outdoors and are thus comparatively weak and fragile.  Such plants are oftentimes sold in floral shops as gifts or indoor pot plants and although they will likely perform over the summer if planted outdoors, it is unlikely that they will survive the winter.  Instead seek out outdoor grown mums, referred to as hardy or garden mums, meaning they are hardened off and suitable for outdoor conditions.  Hardy mums have been specifically bred for their hardiness and resilience, as opposed to floral mums that have been selected for qualities such as large profuse blooms. 

Now I can already hear those of you saying ‘I planted a hardy mum in the fall and it never came back next year’.  There are many factors in addition to the mum type that will affect the outcome of this.  A crucial factor in my opinion is when the mum is planted.  Plant mums in the springtime as this will allow them to establish roots prior to winter as opposed to mums planted in the fall.  A healthy, well established root system is key to winter survival, and is one of the main factors distinguishing floral and garden mums.  Floral mums do not produce underground stolons the way hardy mums do.   Next, choose your cultivar wisely as certain cultivars are more cold resistant than others.  A decent garden center should be able to assist you in this and also the plant label generally lists the hardiness factor, and if not, simply assume that it is not hardy.