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Plant Mums, Marigolds For The Best Fall Color
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Not too far from where I grew up in Texas, there is a huge bicycle race this time of the year called the "Hotter Than Hell 100." While I don't know the actual temperature of that southern destination, it does seem too hot here to ride a bicycle or to garden.
Nevertheless, this is the time to consider planting for some of our best fall color. Garden mums are ready for planting, and there are some huge advantages to making those purchases now. You will find the selections are best if you shop now. In the past couple of years, Yoder Brothers have brought us new multi-colored varieties like Stacy (purple and white) and Roxanne (rose, white and yellow), and there are sure to be some new selection available where you shop.
By planting now, you will get full value for those dollars spent because those first buds will open in your landscape. Keeping them well watered will ensure you glorious fall color for weeks. By choosing types carefully according to bloom season, it is possible to have mums blooming until November. Some of my personal favorites are Champagne and Debonair (both lavender), Frolic (white), Naomi (pink) and that old standard Yellow Jacket (yellow).
There is certainly nothing wrong with buying some later with color starting to show. I do that every year for decorating around the porch and patio. They are readily available in 4-inch, 6-inch and 1-gallon containers, and some absolutely tremendous 2- and 3-gallon selections that will have hundreds of flowers. You will be most happy by mass planting single colors in the landscape.
Another great fall bloomer to plant now is the marigold. The bold colors and striking flowers of marigolds are perfect for fall displays. Depending on the variety, the blooms may range from the size of a quarter to a tennis ball and cover the plants. These plants will bloom until the first frost.
Garden mums and marigolds prefer well-drained beds, rich in organic matter, in full sun. Prepare beds with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Make your first application of fertilizer for mums with the emergence of new spring growth. For marigolds and other fall annuals, mix 2 pounds of a slow release 12-6-6 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed space when creating the bed and side-dress every six to eight weeks.
Mulching mums should be a no-brainer. If the plants dry severely, many buds will fail to open. Mulch marigolds when seedlings are large enough or after setting out transplants. Deadhead to keep a tidy appearance and to encourage more blooms.
One of the big advantages to fall-planted marigolds is the reduced threat of spidermites. The reproductive rate of these joy-stealing sapsuckers diminishes as cooler weather arrives.
As with mums, we have good choices in marigolds like the large-flowered, compact varieties Antigua and Discovery that excel in the landscape and the slightly larger Inca and Marvel. The smaller, multi-colored flowers of Safari and Bonanza are also well worth using.
Chrysanthemums and marigolds all combine well with other fall bloomers like the Mexican Bush Sage (salvia leucantha) and Indigo Spires salvia.
Another great fall and winter plant that is much underused is the calendula, or pot marigold. These plants thrive in cooler weather and produce huge, flat, orange or yellow flowers. Mild temperatures like we've had the past two winters would most likely have found them blooming for months. Zinnias and celosias are also easy to grow from seeds or transplants for months of fall color.
Released: Aug. 30, 1999
Contact: Norman Winter, (601) 857-2284