All posts by sunrise-saltbox

Houseplant of the Month: Phalaenopsis Orchid

If you are lucky enough to have a Phalaenopsis, you are about to enter the wonderful world of growing orchids! Phals are one of the easiest orchids to grow in the home. If you follow a few basic requirements, these plants will reward you with several months of beautiful blooms.

Water
How often you water will depend on the potting medium. Bark retains less water than moss. If your phal is potted in bark watering once a week is generally sufficient. If your plant is potted in moss, water when the top feels dry. The amount of light and heat your plant receives will also affect how soon your phal needs watering. Summer months will need more frequent watering, winter will need less. After a few watering, you will be able to tell by the weight of the pot whether or not it is time to water again. If in doubt, wait a day.

It is best to water in the morning. Place the plant in the sink and use tepid water. Do not use salt-softened or distilled water. Let the water run through the plant for a minute or so. Be sure to let the plant drain completely.

If any water remains in the crown (where the leaves join in the center) use a paper towel to blot the water to avoid crown rot.

Light
Phalaenopsis are ‘low’ light orchids. They grow beautifully in an east window and can be grown in a south or west window if protected by a sheer curtain. A phal’s leaves should be olive green. If they are darker it means the plant is not getting enough light; red tinged leaves mean the plant is getting too much light. Once the plant is in bloom you can place it anywhere in your home out of direct sunlight. If your plant does not re-bloom, increase the amount of light that it receives.

Continue watering and fertilizing while waiting for the blooming cycle to begin!

Temperature
Phals are easy to grow because they enjoy the same temperatures we do – above 60º F at night and a range of 70º F to 80º F or higher during the day. 95º F is the maximum temperature recommendation. Keep in mind that temperatures close to the window on a windowsill will be colder or hotter than your general house temperature. Fluctuating temperatures can cause bud drop on plants with buds ready to open.

Fertilizer 
Any balanced orchid fertilizer (look at the numbers on the container, 20-20-20, etc.) can be used to fertilize your orchid. Feeding weakly (half strength) weekly works well. Once a month, use clear water to flush any accumulated salts from the potting mix.

Humidity 
Use a shallow tray of pebbles filled with water to increase humidity around your plants. Be sure the pot does not sit in water as this will rot the roots.

Cutting the spike
When the blooms are finished, you can cut the spike down to the level of the leaves and the plant will bloom with larger flowers and a strong stem within a year. You can also cut off the stem leaving two nodes (those little brown lines on the stem below where the flowers were) on the stem. One of these nodes will then initiate and generally produce flowers within eight to 12 weeks. 

Continue watering and fertilizing while you are waiting for the blooming cycle to begin again! Repotting is usually done every one to three years.

Indoor Gardening with Kids

When the outdoor garden is tucked away for the winter — the saplings supported, the grass seed sown and the spring bulbs tucked snugly away in their flower beds — it’s time for indoor gardening fun!

Many plants can be successfully grown indoors by children, including the pits and seeds of many grocery items (who hasn’t seen an avocado pit supported by a toothpick in a plastic cup on a window sill?).

One of the most fun and satisfying indoor gardening projects, however, is forcing flower bulbs.

Forcing projects are an easy, inexpensive way to keep little hands busy for hours on a rainy day. Bulbs can be potted up as “I made it myself” gifts for friends, teachers or grandparents.

They can also give young people a real feeling of accomplishment. Imagine their pride when Grandma “ooohs” and “ahhhs” over her magnificent pots of blooming amaryllises!

As bulbs mature into flowers, the seeds of myth and magic can grow in a child’s imagination. A three-year old, for example, might thrill to the “wonder of it all.” A “more serious” 12-year old might play the budding botanist, growing various colors or experimenting with different treatments of light and temperature.

Though the flowers are wonderful, the real joy comes in the child’s anticipation, as each morning she rushes to the kitchen window to see “her” green stalk yet another inch taller.

Guided by an enthusiastic parent, growing these plants the Dutch call “guaranteed miracles,” can offer a metaphor for and an introduction to the wonder and mystery of the natural world.

You Can Fool Mother Nature

The term “forcing” might be better expressed as “fooling.” For what you really do is fool the bulb into thinking that winter is over and it’s time to flower. The two easiest bulbs to force are paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis (hippeastrum). Other fun bulbs for easy forcing include colorful hyacinths, crocuses and narcissi. These require a bit more attention, but they too can offer the young gardener an enchanting indoor experience.

To begin with the easiest:

Paperwhite types are especially easy to grow. They can be bought as loose bulbs or as part of a pre-packaged forcing kit. They are often found in displays along with gravel, containers and other bulbs for forcing.

Paperwhites are best forced in a shallow pot or bowl with no drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the pot two thirds full with gravel, stones or even fun things like marbles! Place as many bulbs as will fit on the gravel with the pointed side up. Then fill in gravel around them leaving the tops exposed. Add water up to the base of the bulbs and maintain water at this level.

Place the container in a cool place. Within days roots will appear. As they grow, they will sometimes push the bulbs upward. When the green shoots appear, move your project to a cool, sunny spot. The shoots will develop rapidly and in about three more weeks, you’ll have masses of heavily-scented sweet white flowers.  

Amaryllis bulbs are very large but also very easy to grow. These big bulbs are normally planted one to a pot and are also often available as complete pre- packaged kits. Begun early enough, amaryllises can be easily brought to flower for the holiday season. By staggering your start-up times, it’s possible to have amaryllises blooming in the house from December through April.

Loose amaryllis bulbs can be planted in any kind of container you like, but a drainage hole (and a saucer to catch the water that drains!) is required. The pot circumference should be not much bigger than the bulb itself.

Spread a shallow layer of gravel, pot shards or other drainage material at the bottom of the pot (this is a good way to recycle those annoying plastic foam “peanut” packing materials). Add several inches of soil and place the bulb in the pot, pointed end up, with the neck and “shoulders” of the bulb just peeking over the top of the container.

Fill in with soil and gently pat down, leaving the neck of the bulb exposed. Water well. Place in a cool bright spot. Water sparingly at first. After the first sprouts appear (about two weeks), keep soil moist but don’t over water. In about eight weeks, you and your young gardener will be proud to show off your plants with their huge, exotic-looking flowers of velvety red, pink, white, peach, orange or even multi-colors.

Magnificent amaryllis grow tall and top-heavy. To keep your child’s amaryllis upright as it blooms, try “double-potting” it by using a lightweight plastic flower pot placed inside a heavier decorative container. Kids’ containers should be fun, such as toy buckets, large kitchen tins or inexpensive crockery pots. Just about anything that pleases a child can be used as an outer container.

Forcing many other bulbs, especially hyacinths, crocuses, grape hyacinths (muscari) and narcissi (you probably know these as daffodils) is also easy but may take a little longer and require some free space in a refrigerator or in an unheated garage or storeroom. Do not store near ripening fruit.

Spring-flowering bulbs normally spend the winter underground outdoors because they require a period of cold temperatures to kick off a bio-chemical reaction inside them that starts the flowering process.  Indoor forcing induces that reaction artificially. 

Hyacinths can be grown without any soil or gravel. Special hour-glass-shaped hyacinth glasses are available from many catalogues and retail stores. Such containers allow you to grow these fragrant flowers righ t on water. The growing roots, which can be seen clearly through the glass, add a special interest. Pre-cooled hyacinths can be purchased, cutting about two to four weeks off time needed for the bulbs to flower, making it possible to have hyacinths for the holidays if you begin in September or early October. Methods for forcing hyacinths are about the same as for other spring bulbs that need cold treatment. 

Hyacinths can be grown without any soil or gravel. Special hour-glass-shaped hyacinth glasses are available from many catalogues and retail stores. Such containers allow you to grow these fragrant flowers righ t on water. The growing roots, which can be seen clearly through the glass, add a special interest. Pre-cooled hyacinths can be purchased, cutting about two to four weeks off time needed for the bulbs to flower, making it possible to have hyacinths for the holidays if you begin in September or early October. Methods for forcing hyacinths are about the same as for other spring bulbs that need cold treatment.
 

To force daffodils small and tall, delicate crocuses, and many other spring-flowering bulbs, it is important to look for types that will force readily. This information is usually provided when you purchase your bulbs. To prepare, use regular flower pots or other containers with drainage holes. Add a layer of gravel or drainage material and a layer of potting soil to a depth of about two inches. Use as many bulbs as will fit in the container, then fill in with enough soil so just the tops of the bulbs are visible. Water thoroughly. Wait two days then water again.

Put a piece of tape with the date written on it on each pot. Place your pots in a dark cool place (between 40 and 50° F) and keep moist for twelve weeks. If you have room in your refrigerator, cover the pots with an open plastic bag; this will reduce the need for watering. Two “musts” to remember: keep the pots moist and no fruit in the refrigerator! Ripening fruit gives off a gas that can kill the bulbs.

When the cold period is over, move the pots to a warmer area in indirect or low light. Keep them there a week or two, then move them to a cool, sunny area where they should flower — to everyone’s joy and amazement — in about six weeks.

Bulbs that need cooling periods are a bit more work than paperwhites and amaryllises, but they can be a great project for older children, especially those who have shown an interest in doing projects.

These simple winter garden projects offer children an insight into the workings of nature. A hyacinth bulb cut in half will reveal the embryonic flower bulb in its center. The process of chilling the bulbs, the effects that water and sunshine can help stimulate a child’s interest in natural chemistry.

But most important: it’s fun.

Whether for entertainment, education or both, forcing flower bulbs and other indoor gardening projects are activities the whole family can enjoy together.

Christmas Tree Care

1. Make a fresh cut.

Before you bring the tree into your home and place it in a stand, re-cut the trunk at least one inch from the bottom just before putting it in the stand. Even if you just cut it on a choose and cut farm, this re-opens the tree stem so it can drink water.

 

2. Choose a spot away from heat sources.

Heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stove, televisions, computer monitors, etc. speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.

 

3. Water immediately.

After making the fresh cut, place the tree in a large capacity stand with warm water. The stand you use should hold at least one gallon of fresh water.

 

4. Don’t add anything to the water.

Research has shown that plain tap water is the best. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually decrease a tree’s moisture retention and increase needle loss.

 

5. Check water level daily.

Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink. Christmas trees are very thirsty! It is not unusual for a tree to drink 2 gallons of water the first day it is the stand.

Poinsettia Plant Care Tips

Holiday Poinsettia Plant Care

Poinsettia care begins with proper light, water, and temperature conditions. During the holidays, while in full bloom, they typically enjoy semi-cool, humid locations in bright, indirect light with plenty of moisture. Poinsettia plants should be watered thoroughly, taking care not to drown them by ensuring adequate drainage is available. Likewise, avoid letting them sit in water-filled saucers, which can lead to root rot. Adding plants nearby can help increase humidity levels in dry rooms, as will humidifiers. Once flower bracts have fallen, you have the option of discarding the plant or keeping it an additional year. For those choosing to continue with poinsettia care, decrease regular watering to allow the plant to dry out some. However, don’t let it dry out completely. Also, relocate the poinsettia plant to a cool, dark area until spring or around April.

Fertilizing Poinsettia Plants

Fertilizing poinsettia plants is never recommended while they’re still in bloom. Fertilize poinsettias only if keeping them after the holiday season. Apply fertilizer every two weeks or once monthly using a complete houseplant fertilizer. Provided the poinsettia plant is given the proper environmental conditions, it should begin to regrow within weeks.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Poinsettia Care – How Do You Take Care Of Poinsettias https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/poinsettia/poinsettia-care-how-do-you-take-care-of-poinsettias.htm

Christmas Cactus

Christmas cacti are a very popular houseplant—and for good reason! When they bloom, they produce colorful, tubular flowers in pink or lilac colors. Their beautiful flowers, long bloom time, and easy care requirements make them a wonderful plant. We’ll bet someone in your family has a Christmas cactus!

Unlike many other cacti, Christmas cacti and their relatives don’t live in arid environments. Their natural habit is one of an epiphyte living in tree branches in the rain forests of Brazil! In other words, they prefer a humid climate, not a dry one, so it’s important to water these cacti more regularly than most succulents.

PLANTING

  • Christmas cacti grow well in most container soils, as long as it drains well. Make sure that your pots have drainage holes.
  • Plants should be kept in bright, indirect light.
  • A daytime temperature of 70°F (21C) and an evening temperature of 60-65°F (15-18°C) is preferred.
  • In the summer, Christmas cacti can be placed in a shady spot in the garden or in an unheated porch until temperatures get below 50°F (10°C). 

CARE

  • As soon as the top inch of soil in the container feels dry to the touch, soak the soil until water runs through the pot’s drainage holes; discard water in the tray so the plant doesn’t sit in water. It’s especially important to water well while the plant is flowering.
  • From spring through early fall, feed every 2 weeks with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. During the fall and winter, feed the cactus monthly.
  • Prune plants in June to encourage branching and more flowers. Simply cut off a few sections of each stem. If you wish, place the cut pieces in moist vermiculite to make more plants—they root easily.
  • If your cactus is not blooming, it may be due to the amount of daylight they’re getting or the temperature.
    • To trigger blooming, nights need to be at least 14 hours long and days between 8 to 10 hours for six weeks. If you have strong indoor lighting at night, you may need to cover your cacti.
    • Flowers will only form when the temperature is between a cool 50 to 55°F (10 to 13°C).
  • If the cacti sheds its buds one winter, don’t worry: it should bloom the following year.
 

Why Plant in Fall?

Many folks are surprised to learn that autumn runs a close second to spring as an ideal planting time, but it’s true: cool temperatures, reliable rainfall, and short, bright days help plants make a quick and easy transition to your landscape. Despite the cold weather lurking around the corner, the entire first half of autumn (and then some) provides ample opportunity for plants to grow roots and get off to a good start in their new home. Before you run off to the garden center, though, there are a few things you should know to ensure success with fall planting:

– You can plant up to 6 weeks before your ground freezes. Once the ground is frozen, root growth will cease almost entirely until spring, and that six week window gives the plant time to get established enough to withstand cold and snow. The date that your ground actually freezes varies from year to year, of course, and some areas won’t have frozen ground at all. If you’re unsure, mid-November is a safe planting deadline for nearly everyone.

– Get everything in the ground before the ground freezes. If you still have plants in their nursery pots, get them in the ground before winter, no matter how late it has gotten. The plants will be much happier and better protected in the ground than in their thin plastic pots, so even if it’s getting quite late in the season, just plant them where you can. You can always move them come spring if you change your mind.

– Provide supplemental water when needed. Autumn weather can be quite cool and rainy, but that doesn’t mean that new plantings should be ignored, particularly if weather has been dry and/or windy. Water all plants thoroughly after planting, and continue to water them as needed until the ground freezes.

– Mulch. Just as you pile on blankets and quilts when the temperatures dip, mulch acts as insulation for plants. Mulch also creates the ideal environment for vigorous root growth, which helps new plantings get off to a good start. While even established plants benefit from a nice layer of mulch, newly planted specimens especially appreciate the protection it offers from the challenges of winter.

– Know what to expect. You won’t see much top growth emerge on fall-planted shrubs, but this is actually a good thing: any new growth that the plant produces now will be too soft to survive the impending cold anyway. Autumn planting is all about giving the plant a chance to put on root growth, which continues until temperatures average about 48°F/9°C. Plantings will be raring to go come spring thanks to the roots they create in fall.

There are also a few things to avoid:

– Avoid planting evergreens in mid-late fall. Because they keep their foliage all winter, they are more susceptible to drying out when the soil is frozen and the winds are blowing. Having several months (rather than several weeks) to develop a sizeable root system better prepares them to face these challenges. This is especially important for broadleaf evergreens like holly, rhododendron, and boxwood, as their large leaves are far more likely to get windburned and drought-stressed than conifers with needle or scale-like foliage.

– Avoid planting varieties that typically get winter damage in your climate. Certain plants get a bit of winter damage every year, no matter what – butterfly bush, caryopteris, and big-leaf hydrangea are some common examples. If you’ve got a shrub in your yard that you prune each spring to remove dead, winter-damaged stems, similar varieties would be better planted in spring than fall.

– Avoid planting anything that’s pushing it in terms of hardiness. Hardiness zones are a guideline, not an absolute, and lots of gardeners happily experiment with them. If you’d like to try something that’s perhaps not entirely hardy in your area, it’s far better to plant it in spring so it gets the whole season to grow roots instead of just a few weeks. The more roots it has, the better-equipped it is to survive winter.

Bonus tip: All of these guidelines apply to transplanting as well as new plantings, so if you’ve been considering moving something that’s already a part of your landscape, fall is a great time to do it.

One last thing before you grab that shovel – take a look at our planting tutorial to ensure you’re planting like the pros. Enjoy the season!

Add These Fall Favorites

It’s officially Autumn!

Fall is a glorious time of year. The countryside is virtually exploding with oranges, reds, golds and yellows. This is a great time of the year to enjoy the out-of-doors. It is also a great time for fall gardens as autumn mums and perennials finish the season with a flourish.

Most spring planted annuals get a bit ragged about now, having survived through the heat, dry conditions and pests of the summer. This is a good time to freshen up your gardens by introducing some proven winners to your fall landscape. Coincidentally, you’ll probably be around to enjoy your fall garden more than you mid-summer plantings. The weather is more temperate, vacations are over with and kids are back in school.

With that it mind here are a few suggestions that are sure to please. Most of these plants will have strong seasonal interest well into December-and ornamental grasses are great all throughout the winter!

Fall Favorites: Ornamental Grasses-Grasses are a terrific way to add drama to your landscape. Their texture is a perfect foil to Rudbeckias, Sedum or hardy Chrysanthemums. They are extremely easy to grow, durable and can be used in a variety of landscape situations. They are also very attractive when used in containers. Ornamental grasses can range in height from under one foot (Festuca cinerea ‘Elijah Blue’) to well over six feet (Miscanthus sinesis ‘Silver Grass’). Many varieties of the Pennisetum family are gaining in popularity, including alopecuroides, with its enormous tassels through fall and winter and a dwarf fountain grass called ‘Hamelin’. Most varieties send out dramatic spikes of feathery plumes during late summer and early fall. These seed heads add interest to an otherwise stark winter landscape.

Ornamental Kale-Flowering kale and cabbages are fast becoming one of the more popular additions to the fall border. And for good reason…ornamental kale offers dramatic colors and shapes not commonly available in the fall. Brilliant pinks, purples and creamy whites add intrigue whether planted in the landscape or used in containers to accent mums and grasses.

Their fabulous colors are not flowers, but rather rosettes of central leaves. Flowering Kales have fringed or serrated leaves that actually gain in color intensity as the weather turns colder. They literally bloom into the winter months! Their vibrant displays will last until the winter temps reach the teens.

Fall Pansies (Violas)-This is a great way to extend your color into November and beyond. While most mums have gone by, these guys, with proper maintenance, will flower their heads off. Plant them in drifts, in pots or even tuck a few in to spruce up a tired hanging basket. These cheery faces do especially well with the warm ground temps and cool nights of autumn. They usually will flower through the first couple of hard frosts. Hardier varieties even winter over and provide unexpected delights the following spring. Imagine their deep purples set off against the brilliant pinks of ornamental kales. The nice thing about it is it will look great whether planted in the landscape or potted up for the front door!

Well, those are but a few of many great ways to liven up your fall landscapes. Sedum, hardy perennial Hibiscus and Asters are other opportunities. Stop by with any questions. We are always here to help. Fall is a beautiful time, and after all, Fall is for Planting!

Houseplant of the Month: Dracena Marginata

Dracaena marginata is a very popular houseplant that typically grows to 6’ tall or more over time unless pruned shorter. It features perhaps the narrowest leaves of the various species of dracaena sold in commerce. Slender gray upright stems are topped by tufts of arching, glossy, sword-shaped leaves (to 2’ long and 1/2” wide). Leaves are deep green with narrow reddish edges. Lower leaves fall off with age leaving distinctive diamond-shaped leaf scars on the stems. In its native habitat of Madagascar, this species grows as a shrub or small tree to 20’ tall. This plant is also sometimes called Spanish dagger or red-stemmed dracaena or Madagascar dragon tree. ‘Tricolor’ is a popular cultivar which adds a thin yellow stripe to each leaf.

Culture
Tolerates a wide range of indoor temperatures. For best results, place in bright indirect light locations protected from direct sun and drafts. Tolerates low light, but foliage loses best color in too much shade. Pot may be placed on a bed of wet pebbles to increase humidity. Use a loamy, peaty, well-drained potting soil. Keep soils uniformly moist during the growing season, but reduce watering from fall to late winter. Plants of different heights may be placed in the same container. Tall plants may be trimmed by removing the crown and rooting it.

Common Name: dragontree 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Asparagaceae
Zone: 10 to 12
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Tolerate: Drought

Houseplant of the Month – Croton

The croton is an easy-to-grow houseplant known for its variegated foliage covered in green, scarlet, orange, and yellow splotches. Here’s how to care for a croton in your home or garden.
 
Croton, also called “garden croton,” are native to the tropical forests of southeast Asia and Oceania. In the wild, they grow as large shrubs, reaching up to 10 feet tall (in the home or garden, they stay a lot smaller).
 
Note: All parts of this plant are poisonous—especially the seeds—so it is not recommended for use in homes with curious pets or children. When damaged, croton produce a milky sap that can be irritating to the skin, too.
 
PLANTING CROTON
•When choosing a container for your croton, keep in mind that the plant will grow upright, which eventually may cause it to become top heavy. Pick a container that won’t easily tip over when the croton gets larger.
•Use a well-draining potting mix. Croton like to be kept moist, but not wet.
•In areas with warm, humid summers, croton can be grown outdoors as a unique and colorful landscape plant. They work well in tropical-themed containers or alongside annuals in the ground. When temperatures drop to around 50°F (10° C), croton will need to be taken indoors.
 
HOW TO CARE FOR CROTON
•Place croton in a sunny location such as an eastern, southern, or western window. If a croton is getting too little light, its newer leaves will be less colorful. 
•Keep the soil evenly moist, but let it dry out between waterings.
•If humidity is low in your home, mist around the leaves with water once a week or keep a tray of wet gravel near the plant.
•Croton leaves are dust magnets. Gently wipe the leaves with a moist cloth twice a month to keep them clean and dust-free.
•Fertilize the plant in spring and summer.
•New croton plants can be started with 4 to 6 inch long stem cuttings. Remove the bottom leaves and place the cutting in a glass of water. After roots have formed, plant in a small pot.
•Repot the plant in the spring if it has grown too large for its current pot.
 
PESTS/DISEASES
Croton are usually pest and disease free, though they are susceptible to common houseplant pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects.

Beautiful Bulbs…Easily!

Part of the allure of gardening is the anticipation. There is nothing more intoxicating than the thought of spring jonquils while enduring the heat of the summer. Properly planted, a gardener can create a blooming wonder that stretches from March till the end of June! Bulbs rarely need dividing so you can enjoy years of carefree color. Fall bulb planting is perhaps the most enjoyable gardening. Here are some points to remember when planning out a bloom pattern with spring flowering bulbs.

Drifts or vase?: Strange question-Are you planting your front foundation or naturalizing a semi-wild spot on the border of your property? For naturalizing an area use daffodils, tulips, scillas, crocus, or muscari to create a drift. A drift is usually viewed from a distance and therefore you should use more bulbs for impact. Plant in multiples of 25,50, 100 or 200. Scatter bulbs casually without regard for a formal pattern to achieve a look created by nature itself. These bulbs are inexpensive and are a great value in that they will spread and naturalize an area within a couple of years! A vase style is great for a more traditional planting as might be needed in the front of the house. Plant your tulips, daffodils & hyacinths in multiples of 3,5,7 and 9’s. Combining bulbs can create the effect of a flower arrangement effect-just as you might find in…A vase! Within your drift or vase you can create a planting that can provide lively color for weeks and months! If you are after a more formal look, then perhaps a border is what you have in mind. A formal border can be any geometric shape-square, rectangle, triangle or circle. To achieve a deep, full border of color, plant and space bulbs according to type. Generally, the proper planting depth is three times the bulb’s height from tip to base. Space bulbs equal to depth planted. Avoid planting bulbs any deeper than 8 inches in our area. This can stunt flower production. Finally, use a fertilizer high in phosphorous to encourage root development, either scratch it in as a top-dressing or put in the prepared bed. Water in well. The bulbs need this period to root in well. Planting can occur well into November or until the ground is too frozen to work. Once the ground is frozen, apply a mulch to keep shallow bulbs from heaving during thaws. You’ll have plenty of blooms to enjoy all spring!

Mum Basics

 
Chrysanthemums (mums) are one of the most popular fall flowers for the garden. Most varieties are easy to grow with their basic needs being full sun, rich soil, good drainage, and good air circulation. There are hundreds of varieties available that can provide blooms from late summer through fall.
 
MUM BASICS
Zones: 5-9 (some varieties to zone 4).
Height/Spread: Varieties 1-3 feet/1-2 feet
Flower Color: Chrysanthemum flowers bloom in shades of white, yellow, orange, lavender, purple, or red.
Exposure: Mums prefer full sunlight during the growing season, and not enough sunlight will result in a weaker plant that will produce fewer flower heads. However, blooms will last longer if they are moved to a shadier spot after flower buds develop.
Soil: Mums prefer rich, well-drained soil. A good rule of thumb is if the soil is good for vegetables, it’s good for mums.
Bloom Time: September to frost. Mums are known as short-day plants, meaning flowering is triggered by the shorter days in late summer and early fall. Flowering can also be forced in a light-controlled greenhouse.
 
PLANTING & CARE
When to plant: For use as a perennial, plant mums in early spring or at least 6 weeks before a killing frost in fall. Spring-planted mums will have the best chance of surviving the following winter. If you are using them as an annual pop of fall color, plant them when blooming in late summer or early fall.
Water: Chrysanthemums require more frequent watering due to their shallow roots, especially in high heat or little rainfall. A layer of mulch in summer will help conserve water and keep the soil moist and cool.
Pruning: Pinch approximately 1 inch from the branch tips two to three times during the growing season to encourage branching and a sturdier plant. Early bloomers that bloom in mid-September, should be pinched no later than mid-June. October bloomers can be pinched up until mid-July, with the rule of thumb being not to pinch any closer than 3 months to bloom time.
Propagation: When mums are grown as perennials, they can be divided every two to three years in the spring. Dig up the plant when new growth begins to appear, discard the dying center and re-plant the new shoots on the outside of the plant. Mums can also be grown from cuttings taken in the spring. Cut just below a leaf node and root in sterile potting soil. The new plants should be watered daily and kept in a sunny windowsill until established.
Fertilizer: Mums are not big feeders, so it is best to apply a dilute fertilizer several times before bud set. A 5-10-5 fertilizer formulation will have the greatest effect on flower production and overall growth.
Diseases and Pests: Some diseases that can affect mums are leaf spot, powdery mildew, and viral diseases such as mosaic or stunt. Avoid overcrowding and overly shady locations that cause moisture to remain on the leaves and provide a habitat for diseases. Pests can include aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, leafminers, plant bugs, and spider mites.
 
DESIGN IDEAS
Chrysanthemums are great for growing directly in the garden or in containers, here are some ideas:
•Perfect for containers and baskets because of their shallow-rooting habit.
•Use as an annual in the fall to fill in and replace summer-blooming annuals.
•With the many color varieties available, mums can provide coordinating or contrasting color accents to both indoor and outdoor spaces.
•Mums are relatively inexpensive, making them a great choice for large groupings or repeated throughout an area.
 
GARDEN MUM VS. FLORIST MUM:
The difference between garden and florist mums comes down to their hardiness. Garden mums are typically the varieties you would plant outdoors in your garden and are hardy in their specific zones. Florist mums are used solely for indoor potted plants and are not suited for transplanting outside. Make sure you are buying the correct type for your intended use and location.
 
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are chrysanthemums annuals or perennials?
Although the most widely available mums are grown as fall annuals, there are varieties that can also be grown as perennials in some regions with a little care to over-winter them. In colder zones, leave the top growth in place and add loose mulch such as straw or evergreen branches around them for protection, waiting to cut back in spring after new growth emerges. In warmer winter climates, they can be cut back to 6” tall after flowering. Check your local garden center to see what varieties work best in your area.
What about the potted mums sold at supermarkets and big box stores?
These affordable plants show up in stores during the fall and have a tidy mound of small flowers. Sometimes called garden mums or Belgian mums, these plants are typically grown as annuals. They are popular for use as part of an autumn container display. Most gardeners report that they aren’t as hardy as the mums featured above and rarely winter over.
Are mums poisonous to cats, dogs or other animals?
Mums do contain substances that are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses if ingested, so be sure to keep this in mind when choosing a location that might be explored by curious pets. See more Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats.
Are mums deer and rabbit resistant?
Deer and rabbits tend to avoid plants with fragrant leaves and fuzzy texture, both of which are attributes of mums, making them fairly resistant.