By Cole Sikes
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Chrysanthemums, also known as mothers, are iconic horticultural traits of fall each year. However, caring for these flowers can be difficult for some consumers. An Alabama Cooperative Extension System County Coordinator has some useful tips on not killing your moms.
Many Alabamaans love to see the bright mum blossoms contrasting with the fall landscape. That’s a good thing, because according to Lucy Edwards, Chilton County child care coordinator, moms thrive in Alabama.
“There are two main categories of moms: flower moms and garden moms,” Edwards said. “Flower moms are those not typically grown outdoors and are sold by florists for arrangements. Garden moms are the ones people see at garden centers in the fall.”
There are also types of mums categorized by flower type and shape. The two most common types are daisy mums and ornamental flower mums. Colors range from white, bronze, yellow, red, coral, pink, lavender and red.
For some chrysanthemum lovers, choosing the best mum may be just as important as choosing the perfect Christmas tree. Edwards said there are a few characteristics to look for when choosing the right mother.
- Buy mums with unopened flowers. When buying a mother, it can be tempting to grab the largest fully flowering plant. Be sure to buy the mums with buds not fully open. This choice allows for a longer flowering period once you have her indoors.
- Always check for insects and diseases. Nobody wants a sick plant. Watch out for powdery mildew on mums. This disease can appear after hot and humid fall seasons. To combat powdery mildew, remove any infected leaves and treat the nut with an appropriately labeled fungicide.
Once you’ve learned about mums at your local garden center and know how to choose the right one, you need to know how to keep them alive. To boil it down, mums need moist, well-drained soil combined with more than six hours of daily sunlight. Below are the key maternal care guidelines.
Whether you prefer to transplant your mother from her original pot or into a landscape, there are some guidelines to ensure a successful planting. As previously mentioned, mums need moist, well-drained soil. Make sure each mom is in a location that gets more than six hours of sunlight each day.
“Plant your mothers at the same depth as the size of their original containers,” Edwards said. “Better to plant too shallow than too deep.”
Edwards also said garden mums flower best when divided every two to three years. Otherwise, any new growth will be long and scrawny with fewer buds. Pinching new shoots in spring will stimulate side shoots, resulting in more buds and a fuller plant. Do not pinch after July, otherwise the mother may not have time to develop flowers.
Water, water and more water
Edwards specifically says that the most common mistake moms make is forgetting to water them daily. Rain can be scarce during the fall months, meaning consumers should water their mums adequately and ensure that excess water drains from a pot or drains naturally from a planting site. A good routine is to feel the moisture in the soil to a depth of 1 inch each day. If it feels damp, wait a day and check again. If it feels dry in the top inches, water it that day.
“It’s easy to assume that the plant is fine. Too often, cooler temperatures mean we neglect the task of casting,” said Edwards. “It’s easy to assume that the plant is fine. Before we know it, there’s a dead plant on the porch.”
If you tend to forget to water, plant the nut in a container with a reservoir or add a saucer to catch the water. These extend the time between waterings.