By Mary Frucelli
I could not resist the beautiful Hardy Mums at my local store. They are only ninety six cents each and the colors are vivid and very appealing this time of the year. Displayed in shades of yellow, rust, purple and burgundy, I could not decide so I bought them all. I checked the tag to make sure they were really Hardy Mums so they might have a chance to survive our cold winter temperatures. Make sure you are purchasing the garden variety as the florist variety is not hardy. The plants were small, but I know they could come back next year and multiply to become larger, beautiful plants that will provide years of autumn color.
I planted the Mums in between my summer perennials. When the perennials die off, the Mums will come alive and bloom, extending colors in my flower beds. Mums like a good bit of sun so make sure you plant them in a location that gets at least a half day of sun or they will not do well. After planting the Mums I mounded some compost around each plant and watered them well. Once they are done blooming I will pinch off the old flowers, leave the stems intact and pile leaves over them to protect the plants from the winter weather. Mums planted in the spring have a better chance to grow enough roots to survive the winter, but it is possible for fall planted Mums to survive too. If the plants make it through the winter I will cut them back in the spring. They will gradually grow all summer, turn in to an attractive green mounded plant and will hopefully bloom again next fall.
Mums have few pests that aren't already controlled naturally, but if you do see aphids or spider mites you can apply insecticide soap or you can make your own soap solution with a few drops of dish detergent mixed with water in a spray bottle. I have found that my own soap solution has worked well on many plants and trees over the years to control all kinds of pests. It is a much more natural way to control pests, it is easy to make and it is inexpensive.
Mums are most attractive in mass plantings but you can be creative and arrange your own combinations of colors. A beautiful fall decoration can be as simple as a bale of straw, some pumpkins and a few potted Mums for additional color. Mums are very good potted plants and if you can keep the plants alive during the winter, you can plant them in the spring. Once established, the plants can be divided and replanted every two to three years.
Being a frugal gardener, I would highly recommend growing Hardy Mums. They are easy to find at grocery stores and garden centers and they are very inexpensive. Mums are gorgeous natural fall decorations for your home either planted in the ground or in pots.