As the glory of the summer begins to fade, nothing extends color in our fall gardens better than chrysanthemums. There are varieties in virtually every color: burgundy, red, salmon, orange and pink mums, as well as white and yellow. Another great characteristic of chrysanthemums is that they are so versatile. You can plant them in flower borders, use them in fall container gardens, add them to centerpieces or drop them into hanging baskets to accent your front door. Currently there are 13 types of bloom forms, including pompon, decorative, single, semi-double, anemone, quill, spider and spoon. I like the single petaled daisy blooming varieties for my garden, and the pompon flowers for arrangements, but no matter where you use them, there is a chrysanthemum for everyone.
If you grow chrysanthemums as perennials, plant them in full sun and well-drained soil. The best time to plant garden mums is actually in the spring. Spring planting allows more time for the plants to get settled in and therefore have a better chance of winter survival than garden mums planted in the fall. Water frequently the first two weeks until established. Many gardeners pinch back their garden mums to maintain a more compact form. This simply means to prune the plant lightly. Everywhere you make a cut new growth will emerge, making the plant fuller. This procedure usually begins in spring when the plants are about 6 to 8 inches tall. Take a sharp pair of pruners and cut the entire plant back by about half. Repeat the process about 2 or 3 times over the course of the spring and into early summer. The rule of thumb is to make your last pinch by the 15th of July. Any later than this and you run the risk of delaying the plant’s bloom too long, and you may lose your flowers to frost.