Every fall I see the same thing happening; perfectly good chrysanthemums being thrown away in the trash or tossed on the compost pile. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that mums are a great fall flower but that after they are done blooming you just get rid of them. Some of us think they are only good in pots or containers; best used for the impact of the color of their fall-like flowers which mirror the colors of the changing leaves. Chrysanthemums really are a perennial flower, meaning they come back every year and I’m going to try to change your mind about treating them as just an annual flower!
Chrysanthemums are probably the most well-known fall flower and for good reason. Their flowers come along at a time when virtually all other plants have finished flowering and many are getting prepared for the long winter ahead. Their blooms can last a long time; in the right environment, they can bloom for up to six weeks. They’re usually not bothered by insects and their only demands are full sun, regular fertilization, and soil that’s not too damp. They also come in a variety of colors including red, orange, yellow and white just to name a few and the flowers can come in different shapes as well.
So, how do I turn my chrysanthemums from annuals to perennials you ask? It is possible to do this in USDA zones 4 through 9 but success will vary depending upon your local conditions and how much protection you are able to offer the plant after it is transplanted. First, after the mum is just about finished blooming and as long as the soil is still not frozen plant the mum in the soil just up to the level where the leaves start on the stem. My preference is to leave the stems intact rather than cut them off at this time. Doing so helps provide a little bit of extra protection to the stem from getting too wet during the winter and it also helps you remember where you planted the mum. You will want to provide some extra protection for the plant at this time by putting down mulch which will help provide some insulation and warmth during the winter.
As winter turns to spring you will pull the mulch back off of the plant in mid-April in zones 6-9 and late April and early May in Zones 4 and 5. The foliage of the mum is very sensitive at this time to frost so you don’t want to pull the mulch off too early. Once the mulch can be removed you’ll want to fertilize the mum each month until late July or early August with a granular fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or 10-10-10. During the growing season, you’ll need to choose whether to just let the chrysanthemum grow and provide some staking for support or to do what they call pinching. Pinching is where you cut off the growing tip of the mum in an effort to cause it to grow branches and appear more like a bush. Pinching delays the bud formation and also keeps the plant from getting too tall. You can pinch the mum monthly but stop doing so in late July or early August to make sure you don’t pinch the fall blooms off. You also want to stop feeding the plant at this time so that it sets flowers and doesn’t continue to grow leaves.
Now you can stop tossing your mums out and turn your chrysanthemums from annuals into perennials!
Photo Courtesy Of Jill Mazur.