In addition to outstanding fall leaf color in the northeast "Hardy Mums" add something special to the fall display in your home garden. With a wide range of flower colors available, they can provide 'designer colors' next to a pumpkin on the front porch, or add bright spots to any summer-weary landscape bed. Chrysanthemums also look great grouped in mass plantings with mixed colors.
Q. I bought some lovely mums this fall for containers on my porch. Although they are starting to go downhill, they have been beautiful for at least two months. Because they have lasted so long, I hate to just throw them away. Can I plant them in the ground?
A. While you can plant them in the ground, there is a good chance that they will not survive winter unless it stays as mild as it has been. The mums we purchase in fall have been forced into bloom under ideal conditions in a greenhouse -- optimum water, fertilizer, pest control and heat. They are tender and succulent from this treatment and unprepared for cold weather when it hits. While mums are generally hardy in our climate, they require time to acclimate. It is too late for that now.
You could try to hold them over in an attached garage, and then plant them in the ground next spring. Water very sparingly over the winter, just enough to keep them from totally drying out; too much water will cause the roots to rot. If the pots are in decorative foil, be sure to remove the foil so it does not hold water around the roots.
By planting them out in spring, they will have plenty of time to become acclimated. To create the bushy plants with numerous flowers you have now, you must pinch them back a few times in spring and early summer. This simply means pruning the stems back a few inches. Begin pinching them back shortly after they come up in the spring and repeat at least twice before the Fourth of July. Pinching after July 4 can delay flowering until it is too cold, then the flowers may be spoiled by a heavy frost.