Mums brighten gardens, homes and more

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 27, 2013

SALISBURY — In the second week of October, yellow chrysanthemums will blaze doorways and landscapes in Historic Salisbury as residents prepare for the annual OctoberTour of homes. Chrysanthemums, also known as “garden mums or hardy mums” are now being sold by local garden shops and other retail outlets. Planting chrysanthemums in the fall is an annual event certain to provide a splash in our landscapes as our tree leaves begin to turn. Now is the time to plant chrysanthemums.
Mums are a great buy; it’s one of the few items that seem to stay the same price every year. Costs of beautiful, heavily budded containers are minimal to the color they provide for at least four weeks. Later-blooming varieties may last until a hard 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.
The bloom of chrysanthemum comes in many different shapes and colors — too many to list here, however, the preferred blossom color of Rowan County residents is yellow. Other colors and combinations that are now available are red, purple, pink, lavender and white. Growers in Rowan County produce more than 30 varieties. Choosing different varieties gives homeowners the option of continuous bloom during the fall.
Chrysanthemums are photoperiodic; their blooms respond to short day lengths, similar to the bracts of a poinsettia. Heat is another factor affecting the bloom. Warmer fall weather usually delays bloom. Fortunately, the recent cool weather has been good for early blooms.
Chrysanthemums produced by local producers are usually grown as annuals; once the blooms are spent, the plants are tossed to make way for another flowering plant. However, chrysanthemums are perennials; some home gardeners leave them in place for next season. Those who plant them out also must realize that the plants’ appearance next fall will not be as compact and tightly budded as those produced in nursery and garden centers. Intense labor and careful fertilization are part of chrysanthemum production.
Chrysanthemums or garden mums must be pinched in the spring when the plant reaches a height of 6 inches. Pinch the new shoot 3/4 of an inch. Pinching terminal shoots will cause side shoots to develop. When side shoots develop to 4 to 5 inches, make another pinch. Two to three pinches in April and May are usually adequate for most varieties. Vigorous varieties may need a third pinch.
Chrysanthemums will bloom sparsely in the spring. The majority of the blooms occur in the fall during short day lengths.
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. Leaf diseases are common problem in chrysanthemums. Irrigate early in the day to avoid spreading of fungal leaf spot diseases.

Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. 704-216-8970.