AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – With fall here, the radiant autumn colors of chrysanthemums for sale begin lining the entrances of grocery stores across Alabama. Chrysanthemums, better known as “mums,” are a signature fall flower in the South.
“Mums add variety and color to the fall landscape during a time when most gardens are beginning to lose their attraction,” said Lucy Edwards, a regional home grounds agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Knowing how to pick the right mum for a garden or front steps can help liven up the fading colors of fall and prepare for Halloween festivities.
Know your mum
There are two main categories of mums: floral and garden. Floral mums are not typically grown outside and are sold by florists for arrangements, and garden mums are seen in the garden centers or outside of grocery stores in the fall.
They can also be categorized by shape or type. The two most common types of flowers on mums are daisy and decorative. Colors can range from white, bronze, yellow, red, coral, pink, lavender and red.
“When purchasing, select colors that will complement your home’s exterior,” Edwards said. “Pairing with pansies, snapdragons, and pumpkins can create a festive fall display.”
How to pick a healthy mum
To ensure mums thrive throughout the fall season, pick mums with their blooms not entirely open. This allows for longer bloom time.
“Always inspect the mums in the store for signs of insects or disease,” she said. “No one wants a sick plant!”
Powdery mildew is a disease most common on mums in the fall, resulting from hot, humid weather, which is an almost certainty in Alabama. If you discover powdery mildew on your plants, remove the infected leaves, and treat with a labeled fungicide.
Mums are relatively easy and grow, especially in Alabama weather, either in containers or a planted landscape. These flowers perform best in moist, well-drained soil with added compost. Try to avoid wet, poorly drained soil.
Sunlight is essential for most flowers. Choose a planting site that receives six hours or more of sun.
“Regular sunlight and watering can keep mums thriving until the first frost,” Edwards said.
When planting in a landscape, plant at the same depth as the container the mum came in. Typically, garden mums are planted in late fall after they have finished blooming.
These perennials survive best divided every two to three years. If not divided, the new growth will be long and spindly with fewer blooms.
“Pinching the new shoots in the spring will encourage lateral shoots, resulting in more flowers and a fuller plant,” Edwards said.
Do not pinch after July, or the mum may not have time for blooms to develop.
For more information on these and other fall flowers, visit the Alabama Extension website at www.aces.edu.