Garden mums — or chrysanthemums — are among the most popular fall flowering plants. They fill the gap between the end of the warm-season bedding plant period and the true beginning of the cool season.

Chrysanthemums are not a long-blooming bedding plant like some of the plants you may use in your summer gardens, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill.

“These plants produce all their flowers in one big flush of beauty that we all really appreciate,” Gill says. “But usually they last no more than about three or maybe five weeks, at the most, in the garden, and then they’re finished.”

When purchasing garden mums, AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings suggests selecting top-quality plants and varieties that will bloom in the early, middle and later parts of the season. Flower colors range through a rainbow of colors with yellows, pinks, white, bronzes, lavenders, purples and others available. And growers have recently introduced two-toned bicolor flowers.

You really have two choices with mums. You can keep them as potted plants, enjoy the colorful blooms and then put them in the compost pile. Or you can plant them in the ground and maintain them for years to come.

“If you’ve planted them in your garden, these are long-lived perennials,” Gill says. “Cut the plants back after they finish blooming, they’ll come back up for you in the spring and then bloom in the fall year after year.

In the garden, mums perform well in full to partial sun, and six to eight hours of direct sun are ideal, Owings says.

Be sure to properly prepare a landscape bed by improving aeration and internal drainage with additions of pine bark or some other form of organic matter. Select a site protected from northern and windy exposures.

“Provide about 2 feet between plants,” Owings says. “Close spacing results in leggy, upright growth.”

Because fall typically is dry in Louisiana, be aware that lack of water on garden mums delays flowering, slows or stops growth and increases susceptibility to pest pressures. It’s important to avoid overhead irrigation and water only the bed area or around the dripline of each plant. But don’t soak the roots, or you run the risk of stem rot problems.

So enjoy beautiful chrysanthemums, either in pots or in your garden beds, for beautiful colors this fall.

If you have gardening questions, send them to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.