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Chrysanthemum Basics


Chrysanthemums, or mums, are beautiful perennials that herald crisp fall weather

We're all familiar with the signs that herald fall and crisper, cooler weather. Mums are certainly among those favorite sights. These perennials create cheerful color amidst turning leaves that will eventually change to a drab dry brown and litter the ground.

Mums in containers are a delight on decks or at entryways. They greet each morning with brilliant colors that range for yellows to orange and a host of reds, whites, and even purples. In fact, with the exception of blue, there's a mum of almost every other shade.

They're known by a much longer name, of course - chrysanthemum, which means "golden flower," according to the Greeks. While Americans are long familiar with mums, these blooms were given the royal treatment in Japan many centuries earlier. They comprised part of the emperor's seal and crest. (And if you follow feng shui, you'll know they are a home's harbinger of happiness.)

Plant them in September - in most regions - and they'll give you plenty of enjoyment. At the store, look for plants that are blooming, but make sure they also still carry plenty of buds. Once home, remove the plant's root ball. If it appears tightly wound, gently loosen some of the tendrils and spread them out in the hole. Place them in full sun - they love it.

Water at the base of the plant - not too much or too little. If they droop, some blooming power is lost. They'll remain lively until the first hard, or "killing," frost. Once mums are gone, cut them back to the ground. The following spring, wait to pinch them back until they have sprouted about six inches. They'll reward you with big blooms in the fall.

Before you buy, know the type of mums you're getting. They should be listed as the "outdoor" variety. Those you see in florist shops are usually treated as annuals - they won't be back.

When planting, do so in dense groupings for the best effect. If you wish, you can mix in a little winter kale for added depth. For container plants, keep them close together, rather than spreading sporadically around the area. Mums simply create more impact when they are massed. Keep color choices to a minimum, too, and you see a decided dramatic effect.


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