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Posted by Harriette Halepis | Nov 29, 2009

Overwintering Mums

Greenhouses across the land are bursting at the seams with all kinds of mums right now, but before you rush out and buy a wheelbarrow full, take a look at this helpful guide. You'll soon discover that all those pretty mums may not be a wise investment.

There's something appealing about the way that mums look. They provide gardeners with a certain sense of satisfaction - few flowers are as vibrant as mums are. During the fall months, many greenhouses have sales on mums, and hundreds of gardeners stock-up while the picking is good. The only problem is that greenhouse mums hardly ever last.

What's a Mum?

The word "mum" is actually short for the proper name "chrysanthemum." These perennial plants originally come from Asia and the northeastern part of Europe, though they can be found all across the globe. There are many different kinds of mums ranging from the greenhouse variety to wild mums (these are rarely found!).

Chrysanthemums are frequently used to craft boutonnieres, make floral pompoms, and create various types of crafts. Mums come in a number of different colors including white, purple, red and yellow. Essentially there are two different kinds of mums: garden hardy and exhibition. The main difference is that garden hardy mums can be overwintered, while exhibition mums are more for show.

Why Fall Mums Don't Last

In order for any plant to survive during the winter months, it must first gain as much strength as possible from the soil that it is planted in. When mums are planted during the fall months, they simply do not have enough time to adapt to the soil. In short, these mums barely have enough time to become used to their new home before the winter winds begin to pick up.

If you have your heart set on mums, don't fret - you can still plant as many mums as you want. Only, you may want to plant mums during the late spring rather than during the fall. Use compost, organic fertilizer, and make sure to drain your soil properly in order to encourage your mums to bloom. When July 4 rolls around, stop fertilizing your mums, so that they do not continue to grow.

Preparing Your Strong Mums for Winter

Once you have allowed your mums to grow big and strong, you can then begin to prep your garden bed for the winter months. As soon as the first frost hits, cut back any foliage three inches. When the ground begins to freeze, cover the expanse of your mums with evergreen branches. Alternately, it is possible to remove mums from the ground, place them in garden containers, and put the containers inside of a protected area (such as an attic or garage). Before you decide upon the right overwintering method, you'll want to take into consideration the type of climate that you live in.

Why Climate Matters

If you happen to live in an area that receives a good amount of snowfall during the winter months, then you probably have a better chance of keeping your mums outside during the wintertime. Why? Snow is a great insulator, and packed snow will keep your mums safe and sound throughout the winter months.

Those that live in milder climates should consider the indoor pot planting method mentioned above. Since a milder climate will not receive adequate snowfall, a protective area inside of a home is the best place for mums. As with most other plants and flowers, the area that you live in will determine your over wintering success.

No matter which method you choose, watching your mums peek their brightly colored heads out of a spring ground is worth all the trouble of protecting them during the winter!

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