Potted Mums for that "Up Nawth"
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Mum’s the Word for Thanksgiving Color
by Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS Okeechobee
County Extension Service