Making “Hardy” Mums Last as seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

Posted on: September 2, 2015 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Choose mums that are just in the blush to make them last the longest.

Choose mums that are just in the blush to make them last the longest.

The hazy world of “hardy mums” causes both confusion an consternation for gardeners. “Why don’t they come back,” I’m often asked.

First, lets talk hardy. Some mums sold as hardy mums aren’t, others are. That’s easy, right? I always buy mine from a good nursery where the good folks there will know the variety and if it’s actually bred to overwinter in our climate.

Bet even though a mum is tough enough to make it through the winter, there’s only a 50 percent chance it will.

Here’s how mums are forced to bloom in the fall. Growers pinch back the buds at least two times so the plant will be filled with flowers now. Since the plant has used so much energy to produce all those flowers, it’s usually just too tired to get established in the ground.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your mums and attempt to get them to winter over.

Always buy from a place you trust. A good grower will never let the plants dry out and starting with a healthy plant makes all the difference in the world.

Pick plants that are still budded tight and not already flowering. You can usually get a good idea of what the color and flower type will be by looking and the plant tag and other blooming plants nearby.

Improve the soil with compost to make the plants happy. Buying a bag or two of good compost will go a long way to giving the mums everything they need.

Keep the plant watered and deadhead the first flush of blooms. When the mum has bloomed once, there should be more buds ready to bloom. Remove the spent flowers and the plant should bloom again.

At the end of the season, don’t cut back the dying branches. There’s research showing leaving the plant alone and cutting back in the spring is better for over wintering.

Mums are a big part of our fall gardens, enjoy the blooms now and cross your fingers for the plant to return in the spring.

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”