It is not too late for most of us to get some asters, mums, Autumn Joy Sedum, toad lilies, and even coneflowers planted for fall color. Depending upon what garden centers and nurseries are in your area will depend greatly upon the selection you will have. For me I buy my mums, asters, and other fall bloomers from either Home Depot or Lowe’s (preferably Home Depot in my area since they take better care of the plants).
Right now most garden centers have tons of mums in different sizes. I have to tell you that there are differences in mums (chrysanthemums) from garden centers and your local grocery store florist. Florist mums are most often not hardy to many zones below 7. So before you buy that mum, make sure it is hardy for your zone.
I am lucky to live where winters rarely get below 15 degrees and the growing season can extend from March through November. I love yellow mums. I have many different types of mums and some have been blooming for a month now and I have a couple yellow mums that will not bloom until the later part of October. I love all colors but I have found, in my experience, that yellow mums grow best in my red clay and among Oak trees. I love the daisy looking ones but they do not perform well in my yard so I do not grow them. Besides yellow is a bright color and it stands out amongst the Autumn Joy Sedum. I do love the reds and even the purples but over the years the yellow mums return bigger and better.
Mums are easy growing and require little if any care. They love full sun and here in my zone they will tolerate a late afternoon shade. I do not pinch back and I do not even fertilize them. They are mulched and they appear to be very drought tolerant in my yard too. When they get too large, you can easily divide them too.I have yellow and some other colors but they are small and do not like where they are.
If you want to buy color for your yard now, then do not pick up ones that have already started blooming. Pick up ones with just buds and plant them. In a perfect world of gardening, you plant your new perennials and annuals without blooms so that they have time to get growing and then bloom. However, retailers cannot sell if a plant is not blooming because gardening for many is about instant gratification and instant garden (and that is okay).
If you use mums in pots for fall vignettes and decorating, then just be sure to put them in a protected spot for the winter and mulch them over with leaves and make sure they do not dry out. Then come spring, in your colder climates, plant them in the ground. For me here in zone 7 I can put them in the ground in November if I remember otherwise I just plant them come March. Which leads me to…
Pinching them back.
Mums, like other perennials, can get too large and fall over and the school of thought is that if you keep them pinched back they will be bushier and bloom later. Maybe it was me, but I find that pinching them back made no difference because I have one mum that is rather large and it will eventually split and fall over no matter what I do. Oh well is my thought because I plant my perennials close together so that if a plant does decide to flop the other surrounding plants will camouflage the ‘discretion’.
For me gardening is working with nature and not against.
Gardening for many is work. My neighbors all think I work a lot in my yard. Okay I confess when we first bought this house from hell it was a lot of work-barren, hard clay soil which was sterile in some spots. Horse manure and mulch that is how I amend my soil. I had a itty bitty rototiller too but it died- I used it to death. Anyhow, amending your soil is as simple as laying 4″ of mulch and letting it decompose and after about 3 years when earth worms and other beneficial insects return your soil is ready for planting. Oops I digressed…this is for another day.
I do not believe in spending a lot of time working in the gardening. I would rather much enjoy my flowers and all the bees, butterflies, and birds that visit. I do deadhead sometimes so that I can extend the life of the mums but many times I forget. Do not ask me the varieties because I do not know. I bought most of these off the markdown racks and I plant them and wait. I am not ‘in to’ naming names or professing to know it all. I do know that I have early blooming and late blooming mums. That’s all I need to know.