As the days grow shorter, the nights cooler and the summer garden fades away, the autumn garden comes alive with the late multihued blooms of chrysanthemums. This classic fall flower is the most popular flower in the world next to the rose. It was first cultivated in China as far back as the 15th Century B.C., where it was believed to have the power of life. Mums, like poinsettias, are short-day plants that require long nights to initiate flowering. It is estimated that there are 40 wild species and over 20,000 cultivars in the world. Midwest Groundcovers offers 46 varieties of mums that are selected each year from our mum trials where each variety is evaluated for shape, sturdiness, growth habit, overall color and color retention. We typically select 4 or more varieties of 6 different colors in order to provide a selection of plants that will bloom all season long.
Propagation of these fall beauties begins in spring when our growers start the process by sticking cuttings into 72-cell flats in our 3-acre greenhouse at the Virgil nursery. The first planting of the fall crop is done in week 22 and the second planting is done in week 24. Each planting includes varieties that will bloom in early, mid, late, and very late season—in order to provide color from early September through late-October. By mid-June, the cuttings are ready for pinching and potting up into pints or #1 containers. The largest bushel mum is made up of 5 cell plugs. Each year we typically buy in 28,000 cuttings that will produce 2800 pints, 20,000 #1s and up to 700 bushel mums each season!
Although mums are easy to grow and have few pest problems, they require a lot of water when actively growing. Our greenhouse grower, Tyler Clark, is responsible for overseeing the cultural practices for our Fall Collection plants. He utilizes our programmable overhead irrigation system to deliver frequent watering. PGRs (plant growth regulators) are applied as a foliar spray to help control plant growth and promote branching. Temperature and humidity must be carefully monitored as they affect how the plants absorb fertilizer; it requires a vigilant eye and frequent soil sampling. Roof vents are kept open to bring in the cooler night air that will help trigger bud formation. By late August, the greenhouse is a sea of uniform, compact, mounded plants with numerous buds ready to break color for a festive fall display.