Mums are as universal as pumpkins in the fall. To contrary believe, mums are not that hard to care for. However, a potted mum can dry out in a nanosecond! Mums need to be watered at least once a day, especially when the temperature outside is 75°F and above. After the repeated stress of drying out, they often just up and die. But on the on flip side, they do not like a lot of water.
Here are four easy tips for enjoying your potted mum long into the fall!
1. Re-Pot Your Mums
The roots of a potted mums can take up the entire pot, which makes it really hard for the soil to retain any water. The best way to deal with this is to provide your mums with more soil by re-potting them. To do this, choose a container that is a little bigger than the pot we grow them in. Fill the bottom of the new pot with a good quality potting soil. Carefully remove the mum from its original pot. Break up any roots you can, or simply rough them up by rubbing them. Put the plant in the new pot, making sure the surface of the soil rests at least an inch below the lip of the new pot, which is done so there is room for water, instead of the water running off the soil out of the pot. Fill in around the plant's root ball with the potting soil, because you want soil, not air surrounding the roots. Tamp down soil gently. Give the pot a good watering--until it flows out of the bottom of the pot. You may need to add more soil after watering the first time.
2. Put Them in the Sun
Mums are sun-lovers, so make sure your pot gets at minimum, 4-6 hours of direct sun a day. As the fall days are short and the sun has already moved across the horizon since the summer, you may find that the places you get the most sun have moved. Where you once had full, unobstructed sun, a tree or building may now be blocking the light. You can use a sun calculator or just try to observe how long the sun is hitting your pot. You might be surprised.
3. Water, But Not Too Much
Mums do not like to get dry. When their leaves are drooping, which can happen ridiculously quickly, they are way too dry. Try to water them before they get to that state. If you haven't re-potted your mum, which let's face it, a lot of you (understandably) won't, there are two ways to tell if it's dry. You can stick your finger, up to the second knuckle into the soil to see if it feels dry. You can also try picking up the pot. If it's light, water and water deeply. You usually water plants until the water pours out the bottom, but with a pot bound mum, it's possible that the water will go around the roots, down the sides of the pot and out the bottom without the plant getting much water. Also, if you've let the plant dry out, the soil contracts and the same thing can happen. To avoid this, and to re-hydrate dry soil, put the mum pot in a bucket of water with a few inches of water and leave it to soak for a few hours. Don't forget it, because the plant can drown if you do. You can also fully submerge the pot in a bucket of water to re-hydrate the soil. Stick a skewer or a pencil in the soil at the top to make sure the water soaks in.
Sometimes I say this and people aren’t sure what I am talking about. Basically it’s plucking off the brown, dead looking flowers. Doing so encourages further blooming by allowing light to get to the smaller buds under the existing blooms. I'm not a big fan of deadheading. It's one of those tedious garden chores that almost as soon as you finish it, you have to start over again. I've found that if I deadhead while I'm talking on the phone or listening to music with headphones, it makes it much more enjoyable. Deadheading mums is worth the trouble though. They will look much better and chances are they will last longer.
Have more questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to help you with your gardening success.
Greg & Mariah Anderson