Mums create a gorgeous fall display in your gardens and on your porches when their blooms are in their prime. But what do you do once the blooms on your mums begin to fade? Although cyclamen and pansies may be catching your eye for winter color, remember that mums are perennials, so don’t toss them into the compost bin just yet. Although the blooms will be gone until next fall (or possibly spring… see note below) with a little care, you can keep your mums growing as healthy foliage plants that will offer up their beautiful blooms once again next year.
Care for Mums From Fall to Spring
When the blooms on your mums lose their vibrancy and begin to fade, it’s a sign that the mums are finishing up their blooming cycle. You can stretch out the life of flowers by snipping off spent blooms and hoping for a resurgence of the flower buds underneath to replace them. It’s possible that you might get a second flush of blooms with this technique, though it most likely won’t be as full as the peak flush of blooms you experienced when your mums first bloomed.
Once you’re finished deadheading your mums for the season, Wait for the first frost (not hard freeze) and then cut mums down to where they are about 1” – 2” above the soil. This will make it easy to pile mulch on top of the plant for winter protection.
If your mums are in pots, make plans to overwinter the pots in your garage. After the first frost (not hard freeze), cut back plants as indicated above. Cover the mums with 3” of mulch, cover the pot with an old sheet and move into a cool garage. Once the weather warms again in spring, remove the sheet and mulch layers and move the pot outside in the sunshine.
If your mums have been growing in the landscape, after the first frost (not hard freeze), cut plants down as indicated above and cover the plants with 3”- 4” of mulch to protect them. Keep mums moist throughout the winter. Once the threat of frost has passed, remove the mulch layers and cut back any dead stems.
If you’ve been growing mums in your landscape, it is recommended to divide mums at least every other year. Mums need space to grow to their full potential in order to get their biggest show of blooms. Once the danger of frost has passed, you can dig up the clumps and separate plants by breaking mums apart where the new shoots are sticking up. Replant immediately offering about 18” of space between new transplants. Plant mums in well-prepared garden soil (well-draining, amended with compost and peat), in an area that receives full to part sun (at least 6 hours).
Once mums have resurged in spring and begin to actively grow, you can begin a “pinching back” routine. “Pinching back” is a pruning technique that encourages multiple branches and results in a fuller plant with a big bloom in fall. When the new growth has reached about 6” tall, pinch back about an inch of growth from the top of each stem. Repeat this process every 5” of growth and stop pinching mums in July.
Mums could possibly surprise your by producing blooms in spring. Go ahead and enjoy the blooms on your mums for a brief spring moment, but by early summer you’ll need to cut off any buds that are produced so that the mums are forced into growing into a vegetative state until fall.
Though we tend to think of mums at one particular time of the year, remember that they are perennials. If you’ve found a favorite color of fall mums this year, why not take a little care to make sure you get to have it next year too?
~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy
6. Cover crops smother nutrient-sucking weeds.
Where there is bare soil, weeds will grow. It’s a fact, Jack! The same reason that cover crops work for protecting soil from eroding is the same reason they work to crowd out weeds. Seed your cover crops heavily and they will grow close enough together to choke out weeds that compete for nutrients in the soil.
Planting cover crops each season, or any time your soil would otherwise be left bare, is a great gardening habit to develop. Soil building is an ongoing process so each time you plant cover crops, you will have less work to get your soil in tip top shape for any plantings in the future.
~ The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy