Allen D. Owings | 9/23/2005 3:19:14 AM
With fall approaching, garden mums are popular choices for home landscapes. They fill the gap between the end of the warm-season bedding plants and the beginning of the true cool-season bedding plants, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.
"You also may want to try them in a landscape bed combined with the low-growing Wave series of petunias or French varieties of dwarf marigolds," the horticulturist says.
Mums provide color from September through early November most years. When purchasing garden mums, select top-quality plants, and select varieties that will bloom early, in the middle and late in the season, Owings advises.
Color choices are abundant. Yellow, pink, white, bronze, lavender, purple and others are available. Two-toned bicolor flowers also have been recently introduced. The Prophet series of garden mums from Yoder is the most popular. Varieties include Jessica, Marilyn, Kimberly, Stacy, Tracy, Linda, Lisa, Lynn, Marilyn, Nicole, Cheryl, Allison and other feminine names.
Owings says garden mums perform well in full to partial sun. Six hours of direct sun is ideal. Be sure to prepare a landscape bed properly by improving aeration and internal drainage by adding pine bark or some other form of organic matter.
Select a site protected from northern and windy exposures. Provide about 2 feet between plants. Close spacing results in leggy, upright growth. After planting, apply about 3 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote 14-14-14 or StaGreen 12-6-6, per 100 square feet of bed area. Broadcast the fertilizer uniformly over the entire bed area and lightly water in. Mulch with a 1-inch layer of pine bark, shredded pine straw or a similar material.
Since fall typically is a dry period in Louisiana, be aware that lack of water on garden mums delays flowering, slows or stops growth, and increases susceptibility to pest pressures. Proper moisture leads to a very successful garden mum crop.
"It is also imperative to avoid overhead irrigation," Owings says, explaining, "It is best to water only the bed area or around the dripline of each plant." Do not soak garden mums at the base of each plant. This will result in stem rot problems.
To make garden mums perennials, keep soil moist (not wet) through the winter, prune lightly several times between March and June next year, continue mulching efforts, maintain good insect and disease management strategies and lightly fertilize next spring with a slow-release fertilizer. The plants will bloom according to natural daylength conditions next year.
For related topics, click on the Lawn and Garden link at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.