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Fall mums provide an instant, colorful impact
Nature always gives us signals as seasons change. When summer starts to shift toward fall, the leaves begin to change colors. Another sure sign that fall is right around the corner is the arrival of colorful and beautiful fall mums in garden centers.
Now is the time to plan how and where to use these plants effectively around your home and landscape. A newer trend for growers is to mix colors in containers, so be ready for even more decisions.
It’s easy to incorporate fall garden mums into the landscape. Their many warm colors fit into almost any home color scheme. They seem to have hundreds of flowers, so their impact is immediate.
I consider fall mums a useful bridge between the summer and fall seasons. After the hot summer we ended up with, summer annuals are looking pretty rough, and fall annuals aren’t quite ready yet. Fall mums are an easy and reliable display of color for our current in-between period.
Choose mums in full flower to have an instant impact on any autumn get-together or event. I like to select plants that still have tight buds and are just starting to show color. This increases their period of showy display as the buds begin to open after they are in my yard.
Your local garden center will have a wide variety of pot sizes available. Using 4-inch pots is an easy way to refresh a combination container that is tired from the long summer. A great combination is Gulf Muhly grass -- the 2010 Mississippi Medallion native winner -- surrounded by rusty-orange fall mums. Or you can create a new combination container with mums as the fillers and corkscrew willow stems as the thriller component.
Pot sizes of 10 inches, 12 inches or larger work well for big projects or stand-alone specimens. Always check with your local garden center for size availability. If they don’t have mums in the size you want, many can order them for you and have them ready in a couple of days.
My favorite use for fall garden mums is to display them on the front porch. When combined with a decorative ceramic container, their visual impact can be dramatic. There is no need to transplant; just slip the mum, container and all, into the larger pot. If you are worried about the weight of some ceramic pots, choose one of the fabulous foam and plastic pots that really look like their heavier cousins.
A word of caution is needed: Always keep the soil consistently moist for mums. If the containers dry out, the flower show will quickly fade away.
Fall mums are usually treated as seasonal annuals. Gardeners remove them when the flowers have faded and replace them with the next season’s flowers. But have you considered transplanting them into your garden when the flowers fade?
Most of our fall mums have been bred for their colors and are not cold-hardy, even in coastal Mississippi. Several years ago, I transplanted a range of gorgeous colors into my garden, and only a purple variety over-wintered successfully.
So don’t expect too much, but consider giving it a try. I think transplanting into the garden is worthwhile since you compost the plants anyway. Try planting them in a raised bed for better soil drainage in the winter months. After the first freeze, cut the stems back and mulch with a layer of pine straw. Next spring, pull back the pine straw and take a look for signs of new growth.
If they survived, you have a new plant to enjoy in your garden.