By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Mums are as ubiquitous in Autumn as pumpkins during the fall harvest. You find them everywhere and anywhere from supermarkets, gas stations to the garden center. You need to know mums are incredibly easy to kill, especially plants grow under a greenhouse, avoid these. They dry out in a nanosecond and need water at least daily. After any repeated water, they simply die. Take a look at five tips to keep your mums from shriveling.
Re-pot Upon Purchase
The most important advice to keep mums happy is repotting ASAP. Most mums are root bound when bought. The roots take up the entire pot and very difficult to water.
Fresh Watters Potting Soil added to any pot is a garden game changer. Choosing a container that is slightly larger than the pot your mums came in. Fill the bottom of the new pot with Watters Potting Soil.
Carefully remove your mum from its nursery pot. Rub the roots circling the rootball, especially the bottom roots. Put the plant in the new pot, making sure the soil’s surface rests at least an inch below the lip of the new pot. This one-inch lip allows you to water your newly planted mum properly.
Fill in space around the plant’s root ball with additional potting soil. Tamp down the soil gently. Give the pot a good watering until it flows out of the bottom of the pot. You may need to add more soil after this initial water.
Give Mums Lots of Sun
Mums are sun-lovers, so make sure your pot gets 4+ hours of sun per day. Mums tolerate a shady front porch while the blooms are enjoyed, but permanently plant this showy perennial in the sun for better flowers next year.
Water, But Not Too Much
Mums do not like to get dry. When their leaves are drooping, they are way too dry. Try to water them before they wilt.
If you have not repotted your mum, there are two ways to tell if it is dry. Try sticking a finger in the soil down to the second knuckle to feel the dampness. This is often difficult because the plant is so full or root bound.
Try lifting the pot to feel the weight. Give it a deep soak if your mum feels light. Water until water runs out the bottom of your container.
Deadhead Your Mum
Deadheading mums are worth the trouble. The plants benefit greatly from pinching old flowers off the plant. This simple task cleans the plant up and forces it to repeat bloom again.
Choose a Strong Plant
Choosing the right plant is key to having it thrive. A plant that has repeatedly dried out will be stressed and unhealthy. If you buy a mum at a supermarket or big box store, be particularly careful because they are under watered. Look for plants with leaves that are deep green and healthy, not droopy. Find plants that have lots of buds and not too many blooms showing flower color.
Only mums bought from a garden center will come back next year as a perennial. Box stores and supermarkets treat mums as an annual flower. These mums are grown in a greenhouse and very tender. They are meant to be used for a couple months and composted after the first frost.
If you want perennial garden mums, by them from a reputable nursery, or better yet, visit Watters Garden Center.