By Beau Spicer


October, what a month! Mother Nature is preparing herself for her winter slumber. Change is all around us. Trees dazzle with one last burst of beauty. Perennials and annuals have all but died back to the ground and the bitter bite of winter can be felt in the air. Another great year in the garden has come and gone too fast.

Color is fading fast from the landscape, but we have one last hope for late season color: chrysanthemums, or as we affectionately call them, mums! When all other plants have taken their final bow, mums take center stage. With colors that just scream “autumn”, high-impact, fall tolerant mums are a staple of late season planting.

With all the beauty mums bring us, they also bring headaches. It always seems like they just never look as good as they did the day you purchased them. This year can be different. With three simple tips and a little effort, you can make your mums last well into the fall.

With three simple tips and a little effort, you can make your mums last well into the fall.

Incorrect watering is the number one mistake people make when it comes mums. If you are like most, you wait ‘til they are bone dry, then you end up watering them over the top with the watering wand. This is by far the biggest mistake you can make! Watering over the top of the mum bruises the blooms, causing them to turn brown long before they should. Remove the watering wand from the hose and water just the roots. In doing so, you won’t beat the flowers up, making the mums bloom for a longer period of time.

Even if you are watering correctly, the blooms will only last for a certain amount of time. Once spent flower heads start to appear, make sure you spend a few minutes pinching them off. It’s a simple step which allows sunlight to get to immature buds underneath, forcing them to bloom. This will give you a second wave of color, adding weeks to the life of your mums. A little bit of time and effort pays off in weeks when it comes to fall color.

Most people don’t realize that a small amount of the appropriate fertilizer about once a week will keep your mums shining even in the coolest of weather. You don’t need to go overboard with the fertilizer though: a little goes a long way. Using a fertilizer high in phosphate (the middle number on the label) will promote new blooms and buds while not pushing extra growth. The important part in feeding your mums is to not overdo it; in this case, too much can be a bad thing.

Mums are one of those plants you just can’t get enough of, even though it can feel like you are always fighting to keep them going. This year  doesn’t have to be that way! With the help of a little weekly fertilizer, the right watering technique and a little deadheading, this year’s mums can be the best you’ve ever had. So sit back and enjoy the amazing color of fall mums amidst the beauty of Kentucky’s changing seasons.