Clearance mums

greenbug(zone 6_CT)November 5, 2009

I notice many mums on clearance around this time and wonder if I should buy them and stick them into the ground for next year.

But then keep thinking why would people buy them every year, if they are perennials? Is it the "you can never have enough" syndrome or they do not bloom as well next year?


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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

They are perennials, but I've found that certain varieties seem short-lived. They also seem to need a lot of attention if you want them to look like they did when you bought them because they seem to thin out and spread. I posted a photo of some mums with a yucca plant a couple of days ago. These particular mums have been very long lived for me. I tend to neglect them but I do usually cut them back in late spring to get them a little bushy. I think if I spent more time with them they would be really spectacular. But this is the only variety that has persisted in my garden.............probably 20+ years. They are called "King's Ransom". I have no idea where I got them, but you can probably Google them.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 3:36PM
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asarum(z6 Boston)

Most of these mums were grown in the trade to make a good one year show, with the idea that most people will pull them up after the fall display. The stock is selected for this one good show, not for enduring hardiness. If you want them to come back year after year, buy the nursery stock of mums that are sold in the spring. These are the type that are selected to be maintained as perennials. In addition planting at mums at this late date makes it a lot less likely that they will make it through the winter. Some people find they do better if not cut back until spring.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 12:07PM
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greenbug(zone 6_CT)

Yep, the thinning out is what has happened to some of the mums I got from Carl at one of the swaps and I feel guilty enough. I saw the same happen with the Rudbeckias and Shasta Daisies that I got at the swap.
Can't help wonder if I am not giving them the proper care.

Is there anything I could have done to prevent that?

Would cutting them down in Spring make them bushy?


    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 12:09PM
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Greenbug -

I agree with whats been said about the fall mums on sale everywhere - although you might find some hardy ones mixed in at a good nursery.

But regarding your fading away perennials - The best thing you can do for perennials is dig the soil in your garden really well and add as much organic material as you can lay hands on. I found this out the hard way about 30 years ago.

Even in good soil, with all conditions being adequate (or better) some plants will sulk the first year after division, but that generally does not include thinning out of foliage - it's usually more like a failure to bloom well.

If you think your soil isn't good enough, you can find ways to amend it without starting over. Deep organic mulch may help, although it will take some time. You could also try digging deep holes (at least 1 foot, 18" is better) between plants and filling them with old compost. This can help alleviate drainage problems too. Worms will carry the compost through the garden soil, mixing it slowly for you, as long as you provide conditions that they like - mulch, no pesticides, etc.

It's discouraging when plants don't thrive, but it's usually a learning experience. Don't be discouraged - there will be lots more plants at the swaps next year!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 12:58PM
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greenbug(zone 6_CT)

Thanks for all the encouraging words! I did get good blooms, just that the branches were all thinned out and falling over. I just had a long satisfying afternoon getting the fall leaves spread on the flower beds. So hopefully, that will provide the amendment that the plants are looking for!


    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 6:47PM
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My experience with the mums is the same as everyone else's. They generally do not come back if they are the ones that are sold for fall decoration. I have a few come back every year, and they just are not as full and pretty as the original purchase.

It is well worth growing some of the hardy mums like the cushion kind. Those give big, beautiful displays year after year. I do wish they had some of the flower variety of the fall one time only mums, but they are spectacular in any case.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 10:10AM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Greenbug did you look at my photos? Those are full-size mums and they do come back every year. They don't thin out much, but rather they get larger and spread. A little clipping back in June makes them bushier and "tighter" when they bloom. They begin early, too, in early September and are still in full bloom now.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 6:40PM
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greenbug(zone 6_CT)

Oh goodness, those are pretty!!
I will keep an eye out for King's Ransom when I visit the local nurseries.
Thanks for sharing the pics.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 7:26PM
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ctlady_gw(z6 CT)

Anna -- I've had greatly mixed results planting the big, bushy fall mums in the past. For whatever reason (I assume just the varieties), I can get white and yellow ones to return (sometimes), but not the deep reds that I like the most. They just disappear. My view is that I stick them in the ground just in case, since the alternative is throwing them away so I figure I've got nothing to lose. Some will make it, many (most?) will not be worth the effort. I had some huge ones in my old house that emerged from stuck-in-the-ground-in-late-November display mums.

I believe that all mums benefit from pinching during the growing season (my mother always taught me to pinch back "on the holidays" -- Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day -- but I rarely get to all three, sometimes only one). It seems heartless to cut back those verdant green stems but it really will result in a bushier, happier plant come fall. Tall, floppy stems almost always in my experience mean either not enough pinching or a weak plant (soil?) or both. Having said all this, I'd buy perennial mums in the spring if you really want reliable display in the fall -- then pinch, pinch, pinch!

Would love to know if there's a better/newer protocol for fall-blooming mums (and asters, etc.) than my mom's trio of reminder dates.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 12:34PM
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cloud_9(z5 CT)

Marty - I would think that pinching mums back on Labor Day would pinch the buds off. I always TRY to pinch them 3 times before the 4th of July and then feel very pleased with myself if I have actually pinched them twice. BTW you don't have to feel bad about lost growth with pinching - just look at those pinchings as cuttings - even the tiny ones and stick them in potting mix to make more plants. They root ridiculously easy and I have had the tiniest cuttings bloom their little heads off.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 2:44PM
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greenbug(zone 6_CT)

Thanks for the tips, it is indeed true that I did not pinch at all - being new to mums. If they root so easily, I am going to stick some branches of the ones I have in potting mix over the winter in my basement. I love to watch my forsythia cuttings rooting indoors and had a lot of success with those. Roses is another story though...

    Bookmark   November 27, 2009 at 2:16PM
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