Horticulturist: Garden mums provide colorful fall displays
Chrysanthemums make showy display for the fall season.
--Tom Pope photo
HAMMOND — Garden mums are among the most popular landscape plants for fall. These plants are also known as chrysanthemums, and some folks in north Louisiana and other parts of the state refer to them as “pinks.”
Garden mums fill the gap between the end of the warm-season bedding plant period and the true beginning of the time for cool-season bedding plants.
When purchasing garden mums, select top-quality plants and varieties that will bloom in the early, middle and later parts of the season. Flower colors are abundant with yellows, pinks, white, bronzes, lavenders, purples and others available. Two-toned bicolor flowers have recently been introduced.
Garden mums perform well in full to partial sun, with six to eight hours of direct sun ideal.
Before planting, properly prepare a landscape bed by improving aeration and internal drainage with additions of pine bark or some other form of organic matter. Select a site protected from northern and windy exposures.
Plant mums about 2 feet apart; close spacing results in leggy, upright growth.
After planting, apply about 3 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed area. Broadcast the fertilizer uniformly over the entire bed and lightly water it in. Mulch with a 1-inch layer of pine bark, shredded pine straw or a similar material.
Because fall typically is dry in Louisiana, be aware that a lack of water on garden mums delays flowering, slows or stops growth and increases susceptibility to pest problems.
It’s important to avoid overhead irrigation and water only the bed area or around the dripline of each plant. Soaking garden mums at the base of each plant will result in stem rot problems.
You can maintain garden mums as perennial plants if you follow these practices:
—Keep soil moist (not wet) through winter.
—Prune lightly several times between late winter and midspring next year.
—Maintain good insect and disease management.
—Fertilize lightly in spring with a slow-release fertilizer.
Garden mums will bloom according to natural day length conditions again next year, usually in late spring and then again in fall.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond.
--By ALLEN OWINGS
LSU AgCenter horticulturist