Planting Tips: It's mum season! Or is it?

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Potted mums are popping up in garden centers all over, planting thoughts of lush fall flower beds that are magazine ready. But it turns out, if we want those mums to show up again next year, we should have been thinking fall thoughts a bit earlier ... say spring.

Here are a few tips to help get the most of your mums this fall, and what you can do to better your chances of having them make through the winter.

What kind of mums should I buy?

When buying mums, garden columnist Ron Kujawski suggests looking for specimens with newly opened flower buds, plus some that are near opening. Fully opened mature flowers won't last as long, he said. However, with frost predicted for later this week and overnight temperatures next week to be in the 30s, the blossoms of specimens planted outdoors in gardens might not last long, anyway. You may be a little late if you are buying and planting right now. The best time to plant fall-purchased garden mums is the minute you buy them, which should be as soon as you see them for sale. Fall planting lessens the chance of winter survival, since roots don't have time to establish themselves. (A good thing to remember next spring!) Mums generally come in two types: florist mums (also known as cutting mums) and hardy mums (also known as garden mums). If you're planting for long term, make sure you're buying hardy mums.

What happens when it gets cold?

"I would suggest covering the plants set in the garden on nights when frost is predicted," Kujawski said. "Of course, anyone just growing these as potted plants doesn't have to worry about that since they can just move the plants indoors.'

Will my mums survive?

Mums planted in the garden in fall may not survive the winter. The reason being that the plant's energy is directed to flower production now rather than to root growth. Without sufficient root growth, the plants are less likely to survive the winter than mums planted in spring or early summer. It's a gamble. Also, hardiness varies considerably among the many cultivars of mums. Nevertheless, they do put on a fabulous show in fall when other plants have packed it in for the year.

Berkshire Eagle File Photos

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