Mum's the word

Mum's the word

It’s a shame but each and every year I go and buy all of the beautiful colors of mums available at the local garden center; and each year I am astounded at how short of a time they seem to last.  Just look at these colors!  Last year I decided to do a little research to find out what I was doing wrong. Chrysanthemums (mums) are one of the most popular flowers to use in decorating our homes in the fall.  They have all of the colors we love to see in October, November and December.  And they are considered easy to grow!  You can keep your mums indoors for a while and then move them outdoors or you can buy small nursery plants, which are intended to be planted directly outdoors.   Well, the first big “no-no” is to leave the store-bought mums in the original black plastic container that you bought them in.  That was my first mistake.  Best to slip the mum out of its plastic container, find a slightly larger container, add good potting soil, and transfer the plant into it.  This gives the plant a little room to maneuver and helps prevent the plant from drying out in between waterings.  You can also transfer the potted mum into a well-draining area of your yard with good, loose soil.  This re-potting should help your mums last much longer. Next, place your indoor mums near a window that gets at least 5-6 hours of sun every day.  They just won’t perform well in a shady spot whether indoors or outside.When you water your mums make sure that you aren’t just watering the tops of the plant and soil.  It’s best to water down low, next to the roots of the plant with about an inch of water every few days.  If their leaves start to wilt, then give them more water.  The soil should be dry an inch or so below the surface when it is time for adding water.  Water dripped on the leaves can easily cause fungus so avoid that.   The more that you pinch off, or clip off the flowers after they have finished blooming, the more blooms that you will get.  This “deadheading” helps the mums look neater and prettier and makes them bloom for longer.  Indoor mums usually give you blooms for about one month then turn into a nice, bushy green plant.  Since our weather is fairly warm we can then transplant the non-blooming, yet healthy, mum outside.  It will often re-bloom next fall with some luck and lots of mulch.   I’ve certainly never had outdoor chrysanthemums bloom for 3-4 years but if you do: consider moving them to a new part of your yard to keep the plant healthy.  Also, you can divide and share your mums.  Keep pinching off spent blooms and add fertilizer monthly.  Mums are a perfect choice for you home this time of year, both indoors and out.   Ever wonder how the mum became such a Texas Football Game Tradition?  Check out MUM-A-MIA The History of a Texas Tradition (2007) by Jennifer Horst. According to the film, “the first gathering of alumni, or homecoming, has been traced back to 1909 at Baylor University. The Texas tradition of wearing mums began in the ’40s as a fundraiser for a fraternity, and was a smash. It grew into a college tradition, that in the 1980’s moved from college to high schools as well.” “This documentary film explores the tradition of mums and the monstrosities that they have become today. You’ll learn that some schools produce mums and garters as fundraisers. Parents and florists produce them, and sell them to raise money for the school. One school in the video made $31,000 in profit.”

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