Ray blight has a grip on mums

08/08/2008 12:00 AM

08/08/2008 6:47 PM

Q. I have some small chrysanthemums in my flower garden that are doing strange things. They actually bloomed in June with small flowers and have continued to grow more small buds. But recently, just as the buds start to open, the edges of the flowers turn brown and then wither. The plants are loaded with little buds. I would love to have even half of them come to full flower. (I have amended my very cement-hard clay soil somewhat by side dressing and water every other day.

Some garden mums are conditioned genetically to set buds according to day length. In the South, where the growing season starts early, the plants often set buds and bloom in late spring or early summer, instead of waiting for autumn. That is what often surprises gardeners when they see mums in bloom so early. However, your plants seem to be affected by a fungus that causes the problem named ray blight. I suggest you spray the plants with fungicide, which may keep the fungus from destroying the clean buds.

It is possible that your watering practices have contributed to the problem by keeping the plants wet. Try to water more deeply and less often; water early in the day so the plant dries off quickly in the sunshine. Avoid watering the plants from above. The best thing would be to use a little soaker hose under the mulch. Next spring, dig and divide those mums and work to make the soil better with compost. You will get better results.

A combination of fungicide and better watering practices should control this problem, but the diseased buds should be snipped off because they are loaded with fungus.

Hydrangeas will bloom

Q. Two of my neighbors and I have Endless Summer hydrangeas that have no sign of blooming. Several others in this neighborhood have some bloom. Mine is 4 feet by 4 feet, with wonderful leaves. It is well watered, and gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. We did have a heavy frost in April. We live in Newland up in Avery County. Any ideas?

It is likely that the heavy freeze in April killed the growth that would have produced the first round of blooms on these hydrangeas in early summer. Fortunately, this plant has the capacity to bloom on new growth that emerged this summer. These flowers would show up in late summer to early autumn.

About Nancy Brachey

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Nancy Brachey writes about gardening for The Charlotte Observer's weekly Home & Garden section. Email Nancy at nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com.

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