Mum’s the Word

Dannette Hunnel

Throughout the country, near Thanksgiving, there is one all-time standard favorite flower: the beautiful Chrysanthemum, or “Mum.” Arizona is no different. Mums provide a brief but intense splash of color in Phoenix landscapes from late October through mid-December. Mums are great as a fall accent in gardens, in containers, or even as cut flowers indoors.

To instantly create brilliant, cheery color, find a pot or plot of soil, add a little compost and/or peat moss to moist, dark dirt, and plant the mum down in the dirt at least 8 to 12 inches deep. Place the plant in an early morning, sunny location and water two to three times weekly. Behold, a simple statement of abundance and gratitude for the Thanksgiving season.

Approximately four days after buds form, pinch the current flowers off the stalks to increase the new blooms. Mums do not have a strong fragrance; therefore, they are not known to be overwhelming or offensive.

Here in the Sun Lakes, mums come in a range of brilliant colors, shapes, and sizes. There are Small Pom Poms that are 1 to 4 inches; the Anemone, daisy-like with a 4-inch bloom; and the incurve that curves tightly inwards, with large blooms up to 8 inches. The Quilled varietal are spoon shaped with a downward curve, and the Semi Doubles have round florets growing to a total size of 1 to 3 feet, making them ideal for small spaces or borders. The popular Spider mum is known for long, spiky florets of single or multiple colors, and they resemble spider legs going in all directions and are just great for use in vases. The most common color choices available are rust, gold, white, yellow. and purple.

Mums love amended, composted organic soil. They will look their best when evenly moist soil is maintained. Keep mums watered well, and most will bloom again in early spring. Don’t let them get too warm, as they will harbor critters in the chillier evenings. Those critters dig and expose roots and eat whatever they can. Also, due to the moist soil, mums will attract slugs. Birds create a mess by digging in the flowerbeds to get to the slugs, so planting close to a walkway or entrance is not recommended. Rumor has it that mums can cause skin irritation. Wear sunblock and wash hands immediately after handling, and avoid touching your face.