Its chrysanthemum season, time to enjoy the autumn colors of yellow, orange, and red flowers. But what to do after Jack Frost visits?
Todd Brethauer, president of the Old Dominion Chrysanthemum Society, says to cut back the mums in the garden to 4 inches and cover with 4 inches of mulch, such as pine boughs or straw. It is okay if the plant is in darkness, it will be dormant during the winter months. Although mums are perennials, they are subject to the soil heaving during warm winter days which can damage or kill the roots. Keeping the plants covered insulates and protects them from the fluctuations in soil temperature. When spring arrives, remove the mulch.
If you have purchased a potted mum this fall and it is still in the container, cut back the stems to 4 inches and cover the entire plant and pot with mulch. Todd suggests keeping the plant in the container and not taking the plant out and planting in the garden. There is not enough time for the mum’s roots to become established in the ground; therefore, the plant will not survive the winter. For extra insulation, Todd suggests putting the entire plant and container under a deck, covered with mulch, and even putting the pot on its side so excess rain or snow will run off. Otherwise, treat decorative potted mums as annuals. Either throw away after they bloom or take the plants out of the containers and put the plants in the compost pile when they are past their prime.
The best time to plant mums in your garden is in the spring after the last frost. This will give them all summer long to get established.