The beauty of fall chrysanthemums is that they are readily available

September 8, 2021


he unofficial motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, is Latin for "out of many, one."

This motto references the fact that 13 colonies joined together to form one nation. The motto even has 13 letters in it, one for each colony. The motto not only appeared on coins but is featured in what is probably the most American of movies, the 1939 film “The Wizard Of Oz,” where the wizard gives the scarecrow a diploma from “The Society of E Pluribus Unum.”

The autumn chrysanthemum is also E Pluribus Unum, in that each flower is actually made up of many tiny individual florets.

The beauty of fall chrysanthemums is that they are readily available, in bloom and easy to plant for instant color in the fading garden. Choose potted mums that are budding but not yet with fully open flowers.

Unfortunately, even though chrysanthemums are hardy, fall-planted mums often do not live through the winter.

To give your mums a fighting chance, try to get them in the ground at least six to eight weeks before first frosts.

Plant your chrysanthemums where they will get at least six hours of full sun every day. Choose a spot with soil that drains well, because mums, like most plants, will not grow in soggy soil. Plant the mums at the same soil depth as they are in the container. They grow best in soil with a pH around 6.5.

Space your mums at least 18 inches apart to let air circulate and prevent mildew.

Chrysanthemums will die in very dry soil, so keep them well watered even before you plant them in the ground. Keep watering them right up until frosts begin.

Do not fertilize your fall-planted mums, because this can encourage more leaf growth and actually weaken the plants before winter.

Next spring you can apply some compost or slow-release organic fertilizer, although mums seem to do well with average garden soil.

Because snow is an excellent insulator, your mums will actually survive better during a winter of heavy snow rather than a dry winter. You can help them survive by adding mulch. Once the ground freezes, lay down several inches of mulch, such as straw, leaves or compost. This will keep the plants from heaving out of the ground during winter thaws.

Next spring, gently rake away any mulch and water your chrysanthemums well. For bushier plants, try pinching back the new shoots, which will encourage more blossoms in the fall.

Besides adding fall color to your garden, chrysanthemum flowers can be brewed into herbal tea. As with any herb, always check with your doctor to make sure it doesn't interfere with drugs and is healthy for you to drink. Chrysanthemum tea is rich in iron, which helps to carry oxygen through the blood.

The tea was found in one study to reduce blood pressure.

Plant mums now, and with some luck they will survive the winter. You can easily root chrysanthemum cuttings in the spring so you can have lots of plants to share. In a turn of the phrase, create “many out of one.”

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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