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A Shopper’s Guide to Buying Mums

By Justin Hancock

Mums
announce fall better than just about any other plant. Ubiquitous at season’s end, you’re sure to find massive numbers of colorful chrysanthemums (mums, for short) at garden centers, home improvement centers, mass merchandisers, grocery stores, and other retailers. With all those millions of mums available, how do you know which plants to buy? Read on for our tips.

Chrysanthemum in container garden with Halloween pumpkinMums in Bud or Bloom?
If you’re looking for instant impact to dress up your outdoor spaces for a party or other event, go for a plant that has many flowers open. But, if you want the show to last its longest, select mums that still have lots of closed buds. The more flowers there are yet to bloom, the longer the color show will last on your deck, patio, porch, or in your yard. Choosing a plant that has more buds than blooms may extend bloom time by a couple of weeks or more. 
Note: If certain bloom colors are important to you, wait for a flower or two to open before buying. It’s easy for plants to become mislabeled by shoppers accidentally placing the wrong label in the wrong pot. Also, some growers (including Costa Farms) offer multicolored mums. These plants have three or four different plants growing in the same container. 

Pay Attention to Timing
Some folks like to get their mums right away at the start of fall (or even before). One thing to keep in mind is that warmer temperatures mean flowers fade faster. So if you buy mums when temperatures are still sweltering, the flowers will age more quickly than in cool, more autumnal weather. 

Watch for Broken Branches
Mums can be brittle, especially if they’re crammed tightly together on tables. Check for broken branches before making your purchase as flower buds on these stems may not open. 

Get Well-Watered Plants
Avoid buying mums that are wilting and droopy. The plants will recover (often quickly after a watering), but the flowers don’t usually last as long. Likewise, watch out for mums that have been overwatered and are sitting in wet, soggy potting mix. They also won’t be as healthy. 

Garden Mums vs. Florist Mums
Mums fall into two categories: garden and florist. Garden mums are hardy perennials, and will come back every year when planted in a sunny spot in the garden. They’re typically sold outdoors. 
Florist mums are not hardy. These beautiful plants are best grown as annual flowers for fall decoration -- then composted. You typically find them for sale in pretty pots at your local florist or the indoor-plant section of your local garden center or grocery store. 

Caring for Mums
Grow garden mums outdoors in a spot that sees full sun and has moist, but well-drained soil. For best rebloom every year, mums appreciate at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sun a day. Once established, garden mums are somewhat drought tolerant, but bloom more profusely if watered regularly during hot, dry weather. If your soil has a high clay content, amend it with lots of organic matter, such as compost -- or grow your mums in raised beds -- to prevent root rot. 

While garden mums look tidy in their grower’s pots when you buy them, the plants do like to spread via creeping root systems. Don’t be surprised if the mums you plant start to colonize a year or two after planting them. 

Pruning Garden Mums
Many people like to give their garden mums in mid- to late June. Doing so helps to encourage a fuller, bushier plant with more flowers. 

Discover spectacular fall flowers to plant with your mums.

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