Everyone is familiar with the potted greenhouse mums offered at many garden centers that end up in the trash after the flowers fade, but are you acquainted with old-fashioned garden mums? These hardy heirloom mums have been shared by gardeners for generations. Blooming in the fall, they are excellent garden perennials that also provide food sources for pollinating insects.
I have been growing several old-fashioned garden mums in my garden for years. Two of my favorite cultivars, Ryan’s Pink (Chrysanthemum x morifolium ‘Ryan’s Pink’) and Ryan’s Apricot (C. x morifolium ‘Ryan’s Apricot’), were collected and introduced by Atlanta garden designer, Ryan Gainey. He then shared them with Goodness Grows Nursery, an excellent perennial nursery in Lexington, Georgia, that initially introduced them to the nursery trade.
They grow best in full sun with well-drained soil and benefit from additional irrigation during dry spells. Tightly packed soils should be enriched with organic matter to improve drainage and root growth. A layer of mulch will help in moisture retention and weed suppression.
Planting in the early spring will give the mums time to develop a good root system before blooming in the fall. It’s not necessary to cut them back during the growing season, unless you want to reduce the height. Old-fashioned mums can reach heights of 24 to 36 inches but may be cut back by half in early July to reduce the height. They are excellent companions to other fall flowering perennials, such as salvias, asters, swamp sunflowers, Japanese anemones, sedums, and goldenrods. Plant the mums toward the back of perennial bed but allow space for them to spill over and intermingle with shorter companion plants.
One garden pleasure is sharing plants with other gardeners. Old-fashioned garden mums are easily divided in the early spring. Just take a shovel, dig up a clump, and share with a friend.