Southern Gardening: Mums offer plentiful fall decorating options

August 25, 2013 11:31:21 AM



Even though we are still in the grip of summer's heat and humidity, garden centers soon will start stocking gorgeous, flowering fall mums. Start planning now where to use these plants most effectively in the landscape. 


Incorporating fall garden mums into your landscape is easy. 


One of the most popular ways to display these beautiful plants is to simply place them in a big container on the front porch. The many warm colors available can fit into almost any home color scheme. The plants seem to have hundreds of flowers, so the impact is immediate. 


Another option that many gardeners don't consider is using fall mums as a bridge between summer and winter annual color. With most plants used for annual color, the summer color has already begun to decline before the winter annuals are ready to show off. Fall mums provide an easy and reliable display of color for that in-between period. 


Fall mums also can serve as party decorations. Mums in full bloom are fantastic for their color impact for autumn parties and cookouts. 




Show off 


Wherever you plan to use your mums, for a long-lasting, colorful show, pick plants that just have a little color showing in the buds. As the buds open, you will be able to enjoy the floral show from the beginning. 


For the best color, plant or place fall-flowering mums in locations that get the most sun, and water the plants consistently. Watering is especially important for mums in containers; never let them dry out. As soon as the plants begin to be water stressed, the showy colors diminish as the plants slowly recover. 


My favorite use of fall garden mums is the one I described first: a front porch display. When combined with a decorative ceramic container, the visual impact can be dramatic. There is no need to transplant; just slip the mum, container and all, into the larger pot. 


If you are worried about the weight of some ceramic pots, go shopping to see some of the fabulous foam and plastic pots that really look like their heavier cousins. 


Local garden centers carry a wide variety of pot sizes. Plants in 4-inch pots can be easily used to refresh a combination container that is tired from the long summer. For larger projects or as stand-alone specimens, choose plants grown in 10-inch, 12-inch or larger sizes. When you're planning your project, check with your local garden center for size availability. 


If your gardening plan doesn't call for the use of containers, you can still use fall garden mums because they perform well transplanted directly into the landscape. Some gardeners use them as container plants until the flowers fade, and then transplant them into beds so they can enjoy their color next year. 


Plant mums in raised beds to increase the chances of success next year. Many fall garden mums are intended to be one-season plants and may not be winter hardy, even in coastal Mississippi. Transplanting for subsequent years is always a leap of landscape and garden faith. Several years ago, I transplanted a variety of pretty fall garden mums, and only the purple plants came back successfully. 


If you want to try to bring your beautiful mums back next year, prune the stems back after they have died down, and mulch with a layer of pine straw. In the spring, take a peek in the pine straw for signs of fresh, new growth.