Five Tips for Growing Garden Mums As Perennials
The Annual Perennial in Texas
Garden mums are a fall staple. They go hand in hand with corn stalks, hay bales, and pumpkins. In most zones, you keep your mums in a pot or, go to the effort of planting them, knowing full well they are not going to survive past the first frost. Once dead, you pull them out and throw them away.
Our first Fall in Texas, we went all out with mums. The plants were a reminder of Fall in New England, and we needed a little taste of that (especially when it's 85 degrees on Halloween). We transferred most of the plants we had bought to containers, but decided to plant a few in the ground in front of our hydrangeas. They looked great and thanks to the mild fall that year, lasted until almost Christmas. After Christmas, when packing up the lights, I noticed that while much of the foliage on the plants that were in the ground had clearly browned over, the very centers were still green. I opted to cut them back and cover them with mulch, instead of pulling them out. Wouldn't you know, in the Spring, they came back.
Five Great Tips
If you decide to try and keep your mums for multiple seasons, follow these tips:
1. Prepare the planting bed properly, amending the soil with peat moss or garden soil mixes. (We used peat moss).
2. Break up the root balls when planting. Potted mums are in their pots for much of their growing cycle and develop dense, compact root systems. In order for them to grow, the roots need to escape and stretch out.
3. Just before the first freeze, cut the plants back to just above their main stems and mulch heavily. (Note I said "freeze" not "frost." Most garden mums are hardy enough to survive a few frosty mornings before they start to sustain damage. Even then, it is just browning of the foliage and not a full killing of the plant. If you are unsure, better safe than sorry - prune and mulch.
4. Fertilize in the spring and in the fall. Twice a year I give the plants a liquid fertilizer - usually a Miracle Grow product.
5. Dead-head and trim as needed. The plants will come up at the first sign of warm weather. This year for us, it was February! Some of the plants are blooming already and others are days away. After the first bloom, I will dead head as needed and trim back any unruly shoots. With a little bit of luck, they will bloom again as fall approaches.
The mums we planted that first Fall, way back in 2007, are still going strong. They have come back healthy every year. We planted a bunch last fall in a new bed and those came back just as strong this year. Container grown, mums will grow to a height proportionate to their root system. In the ground, you can expect plants to top out between 2 and 3 feet. The colors of the blooms and deep green foliage go well in any landscape. Being able to bring these plants back year after year has sure saved us on our Fall decorating costs! Now if I can only get my wife to let me grow my own pumpkins!