Gorgeous Fall Chrysanthemums start now
Back last November, after going on at some length about leaf sweepers, I promised to discuss growing chrysanthemums like this football – ‘Ticonderoga’ –
at the proper time. Which it more or less is.
For growing instructions:
1. Get the plants. Garden centers don’t offer much in the way of selection – the few chrysanthemums they offer in spring are almost always the bushy ho-hum cushion mums that will pave the universe in fall. But sometimes there are a few special beauties hidden away. Baby chrysanthemums all look alike, so it never hurts to ask. Bluestone Perennials has a nice selection that’s easy for beginners but if you really want to get into it, check out King’s Mums.
2. Plan ahead for protection. Florists’ chrysanthemum plants are quite hardy but florists’ chrysanthemums are not. Frost will brown them, heavy rains will ruin them even if it doesn’t freeze. This leaves northern gardeners with 3 options:
a) Plant in large pots that can be moved into a greenhouse or unheated sunroom or whatever.
b.) Plant in a sheltered location, such as against a wall. Put 4 foot stakes around the baby plant to make a frame about 2.5 feet square. When autumn comes, drape plastic over the frame to make a mini-greenhouse. Personally I prefer the pots but that may be because I’ve got a place to put them.
c.) Just plant in the sheltered location and pray.
3. Give them fertile, very well drained soil in full sun. Make sure they have plenty of breathing room, to discourage fungus diseases.
4. Set limits. First year plants are small (the ones from Kings are rooted cuttings, barely rooted in some cases) but they grow quickly. If they’re left unpruned, they make floppy bushes with lots of small, often imperfect flowers. So
a.) After the baby gets established, limit it to just a few strong stems. A few = something between 3 and 7, depending on the original plant’s size and vigor.
b) Pinch out the tips. This must be done before the 1st of July, so if you need to, pinch first and thin later.
c.) If you do nothing else from here, you’ll have a nice bushy plant with many flowers in various sizes, the biggest ones out on the ends of the main stems. To get long-stemmed large flowers, judiciously remove some of the side stems and side buds as they form. The fewer flower buds you have at bloom time the larger the flowers will be. Also the more in need of staking, also – at the flower show extreme – on very ugly plants. Don’t get too carried away.