Chrysanthemums, also called mums, are the Queen of Fall Flowers. They can have gorgeous flowers each fall and bring a lot of color to the home this time of the year. There are several nurseries around here that grow beautiful mums. Let’s talk about some of the properties of this plant and what you could do to have mums in your yard.
Mums are a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae). This is one of the biggest families in the plant kingdom with a wide variety of flowering plants. The mums were first cultivated in the 15th century B.C. in China. In the 8th century A.D., the mum made its way to Japan. They were so popular there that the mum became the official seal of the emperor. The mum was introduced to the Western world in 1753 by Karl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist. Growers from ancient China would probably not recognize modern-day mums due to the breeding that has given them more showy flowers. Chrysanthemum is also the source of an insecticide called pyrethrum. Because this insecticide is developed from a natural source it is considered an organic insecticide.
The easiest way to have blooming mums at your house each year will be to buy them in the fall from a local nursery. However, if you are interested in growing your own mums it is possible. There are many different varieties available, so talking with a local nursery will help you choose a variety that is acclimatized to our area. They do best when planted in the spring after the last frost. Planting in the spring will give them time to develop a root system so that the following winter they will be able to survive. Well-drained soils with full sun are the best for growth. Mums need a slightly acidic soil with a pH near 6.5.
After planting fertilize mums with 5-10-5 fertilizer. The high phosphorus will assist root growth on mums. As the mum is growing in the summer pinching the tips of the mum will increase the amount of branching on the plant. More branching will lead to a fuller plant. Pinch the top half-inch to a full inch of the plant to encourage branching. Pinch every four to six weeks until August when the flower buds begin to appear.
Mums are relatively easy to take care of, but there are a couple of diseases to look out for. Some of the most common diseases are powdery mildew, blight, leaf spot, and rust. These diseases are fairly easy to control either by fungicide applications or removing the infected leaves. Spider mites and aphids can be pests of mums. They can be controlled by insecticides but good coverage of the plant is necessary to control these pests. Spider mites and aphids are capable of population explosions in a very short amount of time, therefore make sure that you completely cover the top and bottom of the leaves when spraying for these pests.
If you have questions about growing mums please contact your local Extension Office. Or send me an email at [email protected].