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Blackwelder column: Mum's the word for fall color

SALISBURY — Planting chrysanthemums in the fall is an annual event that adds a splash of color to our landscapes.
Chrysanthemums, also known as garden mums or hardy mums, are now being sold by local garden shops and other retail outlets throughout Rowan County. Yellow mums seem to be the predominant color for Historic Salisbury’s OctoberTour in a couple of weeks.
Mums are one of the few plants that seem to hold their prices. Heavily budded one-gallon containers are less than $6, providing color for at least four weeks. Later blooming varieties may last until frost.
Hardy chrysanthemums can be used in a variety of situations in the home and landscape. Taller varieties make excellent cut flowers. Chrysanthemums are often used as accent plants, providing color between shrubs or as a border. These plants can be massed in beds or used as simple pot plants as focal points on terraces or decks. Chrysanthemums can also be placed as potted plants indoors as specimen or accent plants.
Chrysanthemums are available in many different shapes and colors — too many to list here.
Besides yellow, other colors and combinations that are now available are red, purple, pink, lavender and white.
More than 30 different varieties are raised by local growers.
Chrysanthemums are photoperiodic — their blooms respond to short day lengths, similar to the bracts of a poinsettia. Choosing different varieties gives homeowners the option of continuous bloom during the fall.
Chrysanthemums are usually purchased as annuals; once the blooms are spent, the plants are tossed, making way for another flowering plant. However, chrysanthemums are perennials and some home gardeners leave them in place for next season. Those who plant them must realize that the plants will not be as compact and tightly budded as those produced in nursery and garden centers. Intense labor and careful fertilization is very much a part of chrysanthemum production.
Actively growing chrysanthemums have no tolerance to droughts. These plants require ample water supplies. Apply at least one inch of water per week during dry weather. Avoid periodic light sprinkling, especially on the foliage.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 Facebook or online at www.rowanextension.com

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