Tips and resources for farmers and gardeners
Chrysanthemums have been cultivated for more than 1,500 years and come in a wide variety of colors and types. They flower in many variations of yellow, gold, pink, white, red, bronze and purple. The flowers can be smaller than one-inch buttons or two-inch pompoms, but can grow as large as six-inch decoratives. These flowers also come in many shapes, from daisies to round, many-petaled balls.
These plants can grow as compact 10-inch mounds to plants that are several feet tall with stems suitable for cutting and placing in a vase.
Mums can be divided each spring by digging up the whole plant. Discard the middle and replant the vigorous new shoots.
Although mums are best planted in mid- to late May, you will not be sure what color flowers you are getting. Many garden centers have a small amount of mums in the spring but stock up in the fall when they are blooming. While garden mums are hardy in northern states, those planted during the fall will sustain winter damage that may kill them.
Mums sold by florists as decorative pot plants are usually not hardy at all but can be fun to experiment with.
To protect garden mums from winter damage, wait until the top has been killed by frost. Cut the dead top off about two inches above the ground.
After several frosts, cover the plant with six to eight inches of mulch. This stops the alternating cycles of freezing and thawing that can kill the root stock. Remove about half of the mulch in the spring as the plant begins to grow.
Pansies are annuals, which typically die after a weather condition causes them to go dormant.
The newest pansies on the market can survive being frozen during the winter and will rebloom in the spring. For best results, protect the plants with snow cover or a layer of mulch that is several inches deep. Icicle pansies are some
of the best-suited plants for northern United States winters.
Pansies are less than a foot tall. The flowers are generally about two inches across, but some varieties have flowers four inches across. Some new varieties have single colored flowers, but most pansy flowers have at least three colors, ranging from dark to light blue, purple, red, white and yellow. They look best in large masses of a single color or with a pair of opposite single-colored flowers, such as
a mass of yellow with a blue border. Another good use for pansies is in pots where they can be seen up close.
The only soil requirement for pansies is that it be well drained. Soil that retains water or ice will kill the plant.
The third fall color plant is a biennial that is grown for its ornamental leaves rather than its flower. Two interchangeable varieties in the same species are called ornamental kale and ornamental cabbage. Kale does not form a head, but the cabbage does. They have leaves that start out white or pink and eventually turn green or purple. This gives the plant a unique appearance, with the new color in the center and the older-colored leaves surrounding it.
Even though they are grown for ornamental purposes, some varieties are also edible. These plants need the same growing conditions that a garden would provide. They
prefer a moist, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. They also need cool temperatures and will survive frosts and snow.
If left to grow too long, ornamental kale and cabbage will lose the old leaves at the base of the plant. The newer leaves will be left on top of an ugly stalk. The best ornamental display is when they are planted close together. The heads will just about be touching when the display is first planted.
Source: Jeff Rugg, University of Illinois Extension
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