By GARY BACHMAN
A sure sign that the garden season is changing from the warm summer to the cooler fall is the many colorful mums on display in garden centers across the state.
It’s easy to incorporate fall garden mums into the landscape. One of the most popular ways to display these beautiful plants is to simply place them on the front porch. The many warm colors available can fit into almost any home color scheme.
It seems the plants have hundreds of flowers, so the impact is immediate.
Mums come in a wide variety of pot sizes available at your local garden center. The 4-inch pots are easily used to refresh a combination container that is tired from the long summer. For larger projects or as stand-alone specimens, choose the 10-inch, 12-inch or larger pot sizes. Always check with your local garden center for size availability.
If you need immediate impact for a garden party or similar event, choose fall garden mums in full flower. For a colorful show that will last longer, pick a plant that has just a little color showing in the buds. As the buds open, you will be able to enjoy a long floral show.
For best flowering, place fall garden mums in a spot that receives full sun. A word of caution for those caring for mums in containers: never let the containers dry out. Colors diminish as soon as the plants begin to be water-stressed. Even after sufficient water is added, the plants recover slowly.
My favorite use of fall garden mums is to display them on the front porch combined with a decorative ceramic container. The 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, there are some fabulous foam and plastic pots that really look like their heavier cousins.
If you like, you can transplant fall garden mums directly into the landscape. Many gardeners use mums as container plants until the flowers fade, then transplant them into the landscape to enjoy their colorful display next year. When placing mums in the landscape, help ensure success next year by planting them in raised beds.
Many fall garden mums are intended to be one-season plants and may not be winter hardy, even in coastal Mississippi. Transplanting for subsequent years is always a leap of landscape and garden faith. Several years ago, I transplanted a variety of pretty fall garden mums, but only the purple plants came back successfully.
When planting these beautiful plants into your landscape try these tips. After the stems have died back, prune them and add a layer of pine straw mulch. In the spring, take a peek in the pine straw for signs of fresh, new growth.
Gary Bachman is an assistant Extension research professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. Locate Southern Gardening columns and television and radio programs on the Internet at http://msucares.com/news/ .