02 October 2008

Caring for Queen Mums


Chrysanthemums are the queens of the fall flowers whether they are in pots, baskets, or cut flower arrangements. Because they are so easy to grow and breed, chrysanthemum varieties have multiplied.

Faribault Growers (faribaultgrowersinc.com) divides their mail order plants into 3-categories: Garden Decorative, Football and Novelties. Novelties are spiders, cushion, and Matchstick. Footballs have 4 to 7-inch blooms. Garden Decorative mums are the ones we find in local stores as plants.

Diana Hartman, president of the Oklahoma City Chrysanthemum Society said, “The plants you can get at home improvement stores are freeze hardy in Oklahoma.”

Lanna King of King’s Mums said, “Heat and rain are not a problem for chrysanthemums as long as you plant them in well-drained beds.”

Tips for your potted mums – Put drainage holes in any pot wrapping paper. Give them a sunny location and moderate water.

When the flowers fade, cut off the dead pieces, put the plant in a bright spot like the garage, and water them occasionally. After the last frost of the winter (around April 15), water and fertilize, then put the plant in a partly shaded place outside to acclimate it. In a week, plant it into the garden with a little slow release fertilizer.

Plant them the same depth they were in the pot, in any good garden soil, where they will get at least 6-hours of sun. Add compost, leaf mold or peat moss to the soil removed from the planting hole before putting it back in around the plant’s roots.

Cutting back and pinching the stems is done in June, July and August.

Hartman grows for chrysanthemum shows, so her plants are staked, one stem to a stick. Every leaf and bud is removed except the top one.

Growers apply Superphosphate, 3-pounds per 100-square feet and Gypsum or Dolomite lime 10-pounds per 100-square feet. Home gardeners use 15-30-15 such as Rapid Grow or Peter’s Potted Mum from August 1 to bloom.

To make more of your favorite mums, take 6-inch cuttings, remove lower leaves, and plant in a protected place.

Chrysanthemums were recorded in China by 15 B.C. and in Japan by the 8th Century A.D. Their roots were boiled as a remedy for headaches, the petals were eaten in salads, and the leaves were brewed as a tea.

Mums belong to the Asteracea Compositae, or daisy, plant family. Their close relatives include dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, Shasta daisy, Feverfew and cosmos.

Annual Chrysanthemum varieties such as German Flag, Court Jester, Dunnettii, Shasta, Painted and Crazy daisy, can be grown from soaked seed as long as you can provide a constant 75-degree environment by using a thermostatic heat mat. Do not cover seeds whether you start them in the greenhouse in Feb-March or in the garden in mid-April.

Swallowtail Garden Seeds (http://www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com/) has Rainbow Mix Tricolor, Chrysanthemum carinatum, seeds. The flowers of this annual are daisy-like multi-colored purple, orange, rose, yellow and white daisy-like. $2.95 for a packet with over 2,500 seeds. 2-feet tall, easy to grow.

Thompson and Morgan (http://www.tmseeds.com/) has 8-seed-varieties, and plants including pom pom, Northern lights and coconut ice.

Membership in the National Chrysanthemum Society http://www.mums.org/ is $20 a year. For Oklahoma City chapter information such as meetings and shows, contact Diana Hartman at 405-495-0129 or Oklahoma@mums.org.







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