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Last Update 11/04/11
I Love Autumn Color! How to get it in your Florida Garden

Potted Mums for that "Up Nawth" Feeling

Mum basket, about $17.00 from Lowes. Click image to enlarge.

OK, so it is Autumn in Florida, but what about those traditional Fall colors from “up Nawth” that many gardeners like to get so excited about. How can we South Florida Gardeners replicate those rich, warm and glowing orange, yellow and red colors of leaves turning?

Chrysanthemum is the word -- known as Mums for short, these daisy-like flowers come in many different colors and shapes -- seven basic flower forms are commonly found in garden mums: anemone, button, daisy, decorative, pompon and spider (or quill) in addition to variations in these forms, such as spoon-tipped.

Mums are a short day plant, which means they form flowers when the nights get longer. Commercial flower growers know how to trick the Chrysanthemum into flowering at any time of the year. During the spring and summer growing periods, growers are able to adjust the amount of light the plants receive to fool them into setting blooms when they usually would not. The growers also use growth regulators so plants grow multiple blooms rather than just one flower at the end of a tall stem.

 

Potted Mums

Chrysanthemums were in garden centers from the beginning of September, but now is the best time to add these cool season flowers to your Florida landscape. Late fall is when you can get the maximum enjoyment from these beautiful flowers and if you are a smart shopper you will be able to find some awesome plants at very reasonable prices.

Gardeners in the more northern areas of the state have been using mums for months now but it is best in South Florida to wait until late October or November to set Mums out in the garden. If you waited until now to create your fall displays the plants’ bloom times are going to last much longer.

It is best to purchase your mums when they have tight flower buds. Look for just a little color in the blooms so you know what you are buying, but do not buy plants with wide open flowers. Mums with fully open flowers are close to being past their peak of bloom quality and in time their flowers will quickly decline.

It is probably best to use just a few mums in the landscape. In many areas of the South it is common to see front porches in the fall with potted mums on the doorstep. Since mums are usually treated as a short term investment like cut flowers, they should be displayed to their maximum advantage.

 

A couple of potted Mums could be clustered in a large container and set at the door entrance or on the patio. You could also fill a small flowerbed area with mums to obtain a brilliant seasonal splash of color.

Florida gardeners may get a second flowering from potted mums once the display fades but it is never as extensive as the original planting. After the flowers decline, cut the stems back into the fuller portion of the plant. New green shoots should begin to grow and may form a few new flower buds. This may continue well into the spring months but in most cases what you will get is a sporadic cluster of blooms but it will still add color to the garden if you do not mind the wait and fewer blooms.

What many gardeners do is remove potted mums from their containers or flower beds when they are finished blooming and replace them with other plants such as poinsettias. In South Florida mums tend to be treated like annuals and tossed on the compost pile when flowering is finished.

Re-growing your Mum

It is possible to plant mums and carry them through the winter. Mum clumps should be divided in the spring to prevent overcrowding. Neglecting to divide the clumps will cause weak, spindly growth with few flowers.

Chrysanthemums grow best in well-drained soil and they appreciate added compost. The plants should be set 18 to 24 inches apart to provide adequate space for growth.

After the plants have re-grown at least six inches, pinch (i.e. remove the tips of new growth) from the top one to two inches of stem as it will encourage lateral branching and produce lower, bushier plants. When the new shoots are six to eight inches long they can also be pinched. Make a final pinch in early August.

Two to three applications of a 6-1-6 fertilizer at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet of bed during the growing season will grow a good crop of flowers. Water mums thoroughly to spread fertilizer through the root area.

Plant chrysanthemums in full sun. Do not plant mums near street or night lights as the artificial lighting will disturb their photoperiod cycle. Do not overcrowd chrysanthemums -- good air circulation helps prevent disease.

Adapted from Mum’s the Word for Thanksgiving Color by Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

 

 

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