From Dennis Patton:
The arrival of a new month is not only visible by the changing of the calendar but also with the arrival of mums and other fall plants at local garden centers. Mums, asters and other plants with the traditional fall colors of browns, oranges, yellows and purples can be seen lining many establishments.
Fall mums are like a bolt of lightning. They provide new life to the landscape after the summer sun and heat. As you drive up and down your street you see them dotting front porches, and they will soon be making their way into commercial plantings.
When purchasing a mum for fall decorating there are a few easy tips to follow. First and most importantly, choose your favorite color. Color is a personal taste so it really does not matter. Pick what you like. I know I am drawn to bright oranges and yellows, occasionally purples and reds.
What you must look for is bud formation, especially when purchasing during the warmer days of September. I like to look for a mum that is just starting to pop, showing just a hint of color. That way I 1) know for sure what color I’m getting, and 2) I will have the maximum amount of time to enjoy the flowers for fall color.
You see, during the hotter days of the fall season the cool loving blooms will not last as long. Picking a mum in full color or bloom will cut several weeks off its bloom time, shortening the beauty.
Later, during the cooler days of October, I will pick a plant closer to full bloom. The difference might be that during September’s warm period the plant may only last two to four weeks. But when it cools down that plant could last six weeks or more.
Fall mums are easy care because, for the most part, they are disposable. That is, after they finish blooming they are usually headed for the trash. Mums are grown in small pots for their size. That means they are going to need frequent watering. Nothing shortens the bloom cycle more than letting them dry out and wilt. During the hot days of September they should be checked on daily. Water is all that is needed, no fertilization will be necessary especially if they will be discarded.
Some people will want to keep the mums over and plant in the garden. Fall planted mums usually have a low survival rate as they have not had time to properly root before the freeze and thaw cycles of winter kills the plants. But go ahead and try, you have nothing to lose except your time.
I know I have already changed a container on my front porch out for the fall season. Mums are a simple way to signal a new season and give the garden a fresh pop. Enjoy as that is what it is all about.