Ask the master mardeners
Q: My friends speak of fall- blooming mums; others speak of chrysanthemums. Are they speaking of the same plants, and how does one grow them?
A: Chrysanthemum or mum, the latter an abbreviation, is a plant of the Asteraceae family. You are right to think of asters when you hear this name, but many other plants belong to this family, including coreopsis and rudbeckia. In some literature, the genus name Dendranthema is used instead of chrysanthemum.
Mums are bushy annual and perennial plants native to the Mediterranean, the Arctic, Russia, China and Japan. The mums you receive as florist plants frequently are the annual variety.
Perennial mums are able to survive average winters in our area. Look for a perennial label when you buy them. Good hardy cultivars include ‘Maroon Pride’ and ‘Centerpiece.’
Old hardy mums should be divided in the spring. Newly planted mums will give you the greatest amount of new flowers in the fall.
(Korean mums in my garden in early November)
In the spring, snip off flower buds to encourage the plant to develop a good root system. This will prevent the plant from heaving out of the ground in winter months.
Mums like full sun and well-drained soil. They are heavy feeders, so use a balanced fertilizer as soon as new growth starts and re-fertilize when buds start forming.
Clip perennial mums in early spring and again in June to reduce their height and encourage bushier plants. You can use the clippings to propagate new plants. Just plant them in good soil, water regularly and soon you will have additional plants with roots.
We wish you a happy gardening season.
Krys Mernyk Sleepy Hollow, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester