I Do Not Like Garden Mums!

Did that title get your attention?


It’s become popular in blog posting to use outlandish or unusual titles to get the attention of blog readers.  As of this writing there are 4,107,675 blogs on Worpress.com so competition for readership is fierce.

But I did not write that heading just to get your attention.  I truly do not like fall garden mums. Before I get to the reasons why, I want to talk about the good points of fall chrysanthemums.

  1. Fall mums are colorful.  When it comes to bright fall colors, garden mums are outstanding.  In full bloom, you have yellows and whites so bright that they hurt your eyes.  There are purples in just about every shade imaginable, deep reds, burnt reds, pumpkin oranges, bronzes and corals.  The colors are also complimenting so you can find almost any school color combination or match your mums to your outdoor decor.
  2. Fall mums are popular, and have become a fall tradition.  Mums have been around a very long time to the point that they have become as traditional as poinsettias.
  3. Fall mums perform very well in the fall.  The plants themselves are tough plants and  like the cooler temperatures.

Now here are the reasons why I don’t like them.

  1. Garden mums are not a good value for consumers.  Compared to comparably priced items in the spring, mums are over valued in relation to the amount of time that gardeners get to enjoy them.
  2. The maximum bloom time on a mum averages 5 weeks.  But that’s a good thing you say, and it is as long as the consumer buys their mum before it blooms.  Unfortunately, the average garden shoppers want to buy their mums in full bloom.  Here is an example of the typical life of a mum:  the mum’s buds begin to open on September 12; they are shipped to the garden center on September 17; since the mums are not initially in full bloom, the consumer does not buy their mums until September 27; the consumer enjoys their mums for 2 weeks before the blooms fade and begin to turn brown sometime around October 11.
  3. There are other flowers available to fall gardeners that will bloom longer, that are easier to care for, and that are just as beautiful as garden mums.

OK.  So that’s 3 for and 3 against, but I think the 3 against far outweigh the 3 for especially when you factor in the third point against the mums.

What needs to happen it that growers like myself and garden centers need to do a better job educating our customers about the benefits of other fall annuals that gardeners can be utilizing.

Here are my picks on fall plants that are just as beautiful, can take the temps and last longer than mums FOR ABOUT THE SAME PRICE AS MUMS OR LESS!

Calibrachoas* — they look great in the spring and struggle some in the summer but in the fall they can provide more color for longer.  Buy a #12 deco pot of calibrachoas in early September and it will keep going through November.  It may even come back in the Spring.  Calibrachoas also have all the fall colors that are popular with consumers: reds, roses, blues, purples, yellows, golds and oranges.

Wave Petunias* — these awesome petunias will perform as well as the Calibrachoas for almost as long.  Waves are not quite as tough as calibrachoas, but they are faster growing and more vigorous.  Great colors are blue, purple, rose, white and pinks.

Swiss Chard* — we had Chard planted next to our office and it looked great almost all winter long.  It suffered some during the hard freezes but never died out.  It’s also edible if you like them.

Ornamental Pepper* — peppers are typically a summer plant, but ornamental pepper plants with peppers on them will provide garden color all fall right up until the first heavy frost.  Mature peppers are usually red, orange, yellow or purple.

Dianthus* — dianthus (F1 series like Floral Lace) are technically bi-annuals.  This means that if you plant them in the spring they should continue to grow and bloom through the following spring.  We’ve had dianthus last through 20 degree weather without any problems.  Great colors available are crimson, white and mix.

Dreams Petunias* — while not as hardy as Wave Petunias, Dreams Petunias can be planted while the temperatures are still hot and will keep growing and blooming until a hard freeze comes along which is usually sometime in November for Arkansas and Oklahoma.  In a mild year,  they can last into December, and in Louisiana they use petunias all winter long.

Ornamental grasses — just about any ornamental grass will look great in the fall and nearly all of them are perennials.

There are other items out there that show some fall potential, but need to be trialed a little more before promoting them as fall plants.  These items are nemesia, mona lavender plectranthus, sun coleuses, argyranthemum, diascia, erysium, linaria, and lantanas.

(Yellow mum picture up top provided by Ball Horticultural Company.)

*© 2001 Ball Horticultural Company

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