Mums are a very popular choice for fall color in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and throughout South Louisiana. Mums have a large array of colors to choose from to brighten up dull areas in your garden landscape. There are two ways to have mums in your landscape and that would be to either plant them as a perennial or to buy mums every year as an annual. Buying them is as easy as going to any store with plants, but planting them and having your mums come back every year seems to give gardeners some trouble. We will go through some steps for mum success.
Caring for Mums
Location is important since it determines the amount of light your mum will receive. Mums should have eight hours of sunlight every day. Most varieties of mums can get by with a minimum of five hours, but would look much better with additional hours of sunlight. Also, if you have a choice, morning sunlight would be better if they are only getting around five hours.
Mums should be watered whenever you see signs of wilting or dry soil. Watering this way will average about three times per week in the absence of rain. A layer of mulch, even in a planter or pot, will help to keep your mums healthy. Do not water excessively since mums can get root rot and that would defeat the purpose of putting extra time into watering them.
Since mums flowering is so brief, they may not need additional fertilizer if they are in good soil. If you find they need a little something more, try a fertilizer with a higher rate of phosphorus (the middle number in the N-P-K numbering on all bags of fertilizer).
How to Grow Mums in Louisiana
A lot of people will tell you to plant your potted mums in late October before the first frost of the year. The next time you hear this you can firmly tell them they are wrong. If you plant your mums in October, they rarely have enough time to develop their roots to survive the winter. You will have a much higher chance of success if you keep them potted during the first few frosty days and nights of the year. Move them inside during frosty nights until all of the blooms and leaves have fallen off. This shows the mum has gone dormant.
At this point you will want to plant the mum in the ground. Till the soil a good six inches deep to loosen it up and mix soil that drains well. Plant mums eighteen inches and two feet apart. Add mulch, leaves or garden debris up and over the base of the plant to prevent freezing. In late January or early February, prune the tops of the mums to under one and a half feet. Begin watering mums in early spring as they start getting their new growth and color. Apply some slow release fertilizer, 20-10-20, when the mums start to grow to ensure they take off. Your mums should be established then and will return for many years to add color to your home landscape.
Alternatively, you could leave them in pots in a climate controlled environment until the following spring if you have the room. That would also mean having what would look like a bunch of sticks in a pot with soil in your home for months and most people would not care to look at that for so long.