How to address your mums for winter.
For the farmers that are new to mums, I’m reprising a post I made this week last year as we approached an early killing frost. Those of you further north are likely experiencing “Frostmas” now, or soon, so here’s a few thoughts on how to help your babies:
Though the plants are relatively hardy, the flowers themselves do need frost protection. Whether that is Reemay, Agribon, a tarp, a greenhouse, or sunroom is up to the grower, but unprotected flowers will get nipped by frost. It is wise to take the insulative fabric off of the plant as soon as temps become favorable again. Any cover that’s left on too long during a sunny day can cause heat stress and create prime conditions for disease to flourish.
As mentioned, the plants themselves can handle frost, but during a deep freeze, it’s best to provide protection. The root systems of potted plants are particularly exposed to the cold, so after flowering is done, you may want to bring your potted mums inside the garage, a shed, a basement, or a sunroom.
In warmer climates, people often just cut them back to about 4” tall and set them up against the house to take advantage of the radiant heat for the winter. Another approach is to dig a hole in the ground and put the whole pot in the hole and then add a thick layer of mulch to the surface. In springtime, you just excavate the whole pot again and put it back in your preferred location.
Regardless of your preferred approach, you should trim the plant down to about 4” tall after flowering is complete and the plant has died back naturally.
Aphids are probably giving you a little trouble at this point too. For an organic approach, you can use things like neem oil, spinosad, or Pyganic (strongest) before bud break, but as soon as those flower petals begin to open, you may find that those products will spot up your flowers…particularly on a sunny day.
It’s tough, because aphid populations seem to love mums and they explode rapidly, so you need to use something to stop the onslaught.
Once flowers open, we have to rely on insecticidal soap to hold back the tide. You need to get the underside of the leaves too though and it’s still wise to try and avoid spraying the petals as much as you can. It’s kind of an impossible task, but in my experience, soap doesn’t discolor the petals as easily as the more aggressive organic treatments I mentioned do.
There’s almost never a perfect solution in the garden. You just have to play probabilities and do your best and be grateful for what successes you have.
The heirloom mum varieties are finding a huge resurgence in popularity for a reason. They are so much more beautiful and fascinating than the run of the mill mums that have filled grocery stores and flower shops for decades. The heirloom shapes and colors are brilliant and perfect for fall and their vase life is damn near never-ending.
And for a gardener who loves flowers, they’re the last gasp of blooms that you’ll get until Spring. They spread out the beauty season by an extra month. So much to love about them.
I hope you have a great weekend and remember to smile at a stranger and high five a friend. Or vise versa.