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Tips for growing mums in the fall landscape

Fall ready — Mums brighten the autumn landscape whether planted in the ground, baskets or pots. © iStockphoto

Fall ready — Mums brighten the autumn landscape whether planted in the ground, baskets or pots. © iStockphoto

The Hoosier Gardener talks about fall-planted mums Sept. 8 on Indianapolis’ Fox 59, and offers tips to help the plants through winter.

Here are some tips:

  • Get these fall-blooming perennials in the ground as soon as possible. If using mums as container plants, it’s unlikely they will make it through winter, so enjoy their seasonal color as you would annuals. Make sure to keep pots watered and you’ll get several more weeks of color in the garden.
  • Plant mums (Chrysanthemum) in full sun, in well-drained soil that is moderately moist. If the soil is too wet or too dry, the mums will suffer. They tolerate part shade, but if it is too shady, the mums will get leggy and have smaller flowers.
  • Deadhead, or remove spent flowers, to keep plants looking tidy and to promote more blooms.
  • No need to fertilize the plants until you see new growth next spring.
  • Do not cut the plant back this fall. The dried flowers and stems serve as a buffer or insulation to protect the plant during winter. When you see new growth in spring, cut the dead stems as close to the ground as possible.

Some garden centers may have other plants for fall color, such as pansies (Viola), stocks (Matthiola) or Aster. Also, many of our summer annuals get a second wind when the temperature drops, such as snapdragons (Antirrhinum), Petunia and Osteospermum. Cut back leggy annuals to renew them and boost blooms.

Plant bulbs now for a decorative lawn in spring

Bloomin’ heart  — In spring, these crocuses will bloom in a heart-shaped bouquet of purple, yellow, blue and white blossoms. (Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center)

Bloomin’ heart — In spring, these crocuses will bloom in a heart-shaped bouquet of purple, yellow, blue and white blossoms. (Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center)

Fall is an ideal time to let kids make lawn art with spring-blooming bulbs. Children can create a design or a message in the grass that will appear next spring. For example, they can spell out a greeting, their name, the address or create a heart or other shape. Here are some tips:

  • Early blooming bulbs allow for adequate ripening of the foliage before the grass needs to be mowed. After blooming, the foliage needs to ripen in order to replenish the under ground bulb for the following year’s flowers.
    Removing the foliage before it turns yellow, brown or falls flat, will decrease the flowers next year. The ripening process may take up to six weeks. Larger, later-blooming bulbs, such as hybrid tulips (Tulipa) or daffodils (Narcissus), may not have enough time to ripen before the grass needs to be cut. However, if you are willing to sacrifice next year’s flowers for this year’s show, go for the larger bulbs and mow when needed.

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