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Belgian mums rock the nursery industry

By Norman Winter

MSU Horticulturist
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center

Chrysanthemums have always been the premier fall plant, but this year a new group known as Belgian mums have gardeners everywhere talking.

Yellow Belgian mums

Red Belgian mums

These are no ordinary fall-flowering, winter-hardy chrysanthemums. Belgian mums produce an abundance of flower buds in a quantity much larger than any other mum.

Every year I try to urge gardeners to buy mums while they are still in tight bud so they get the most landscape value for their purchase. Sometimes I feel like I have failed. Most mums are hard to sell without color showing, but things are changing with the arrival of Belgian mums. These plants have so many buds that gardeners are quick to realize their superiority.

If you tried to count the buds on these plants, you most likely would need a calculator. Close examination shows that many have upwards of 600 buds ready to open. I feel certain that some I have seen have 1,000 buds.

An exceptional feature of the Belgian mum is its durability. We have all packed mums in the trunk of the car and unloaded them at home to realize we should have been more careful. The backseat is loaded with broken branches.

While other mums break branches easily, the Belgian mums can take a lot of abuse without damage. The first time a grower urged me to squeeze the whole plant tightly, I thought he was trying to make a quick sale because they would surely break. Unbelievably, the mums bounced back like a sponge after squeezing.

The Belgian mums are mounded in shape and require no pinching or staking. They come in varieties that are early, mid-season and late fall blooming that will give us gardeners an extra long season of bloom if we buy accordingly.

There are more than 20 selections of Belgian mums grown in the United States, and their names are a little tricky. Very early flowering varieties are Temptress and Urano. For early season, look for Camina, Cesaro, Jambo, Molfetta, Novare, Padre, Savona, Siam and Terano.

Mid-season varieties are Celino, Frimo, Mistretta and Prato. If you're shopping now, look for late season varieties like Carpino, Dark Veria, Sapiro and Tripoli.

Don't let the names throw you -- these are great new mums that will probably change the face of our industry for years to come. Your garden center may still have some of the late season varieties for sale. If not, at least you will know what to look for next year.

After the mums succumb to freezing weather, trim the foliage back to just above the ground and give them a good layer of mulch. It is not uncommon to have a good spring bloom of mums. After this bloom, cut them back again to get ready for fall.

It is an exciting time to be a gardener. New varieties like the Belgian mums and others pouring in from around the world makes you want to keep your eyes open at the garden center.

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Released: Oct. 15, 2001
Contact: Norman Winter
(601) 857-2284

Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.

Publications may download images at 200 dpi:
Red Belgian mums
Yellow Belgian mums

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