Nancy Brachey

Brighten your rooms and porches with colorful mums

While it is tempting to do so, don’t rely solely on trees for autumn color. Chrysanthemums will bring color indoors with a grand range of autumn hues, from light to vivid. And they are sold practically everywhere, from grocery stores to flower shops and garden centers.

When I see these plants, I marvel at the many weeks of work required through the summer to achieve the nicely rounded, well-budded mums that are just the right height for an end table or centerpiece.

Not only are they useful indoors as seasonal decorations, they work wonders outdoors, on porches and patios with no fear of typical November temperatures.

The outdoor sunshine, which is getting milder by the day, is also a key to bringing the buds to open beautifully. Indoors, bright light through a window will help this process, but not as quickly as more direct sun outdoors.

A key thing in keeping your mum going as long as possible indoors is the temperature. Normal room temps of 68 to 70 degrees are on the warm side for these flowers, which is why they last longer outdoors, even though it seems chilly for humans.

If your plant must remain indoors, try to find a place, such as a cool window sill, an unheated room or enclosed porch, to move your plant for the night. This is helpful if you are having guests in a few days and want your plant to still look good at that time. I have an unheated sunroom, which is well-lighted but so well-insulated the temperature never drops below 50 degrees. Chrysanthemums and other flowering plants such as cyclamen have lasted many weeks in that sunny but cool environment.

Watering is another key factor in keeping mums going as long as possible. These plants have been pushed to produce a lot of roots that will bear strong stems, leaves and flowers. The result is a pot well-filled with roots with less space left for soil to store water. You may have to water every day or every other day, but at minimum check every day to make sure the plant does not wilt. That results in yellow leaves and a shorter show. An easy way is to put the plant under a faucet and let a slow stream of water reach the soil. It will start to run out the bottom quite soon, but at least the soil will get wet and the roots watered.

Once the flowers fade, trim them off, keep the foliage and look for a spot outdoors to plant your mum, or give it to someone who has a flower bed. Once the plant is set out, water it regularly. Leaving the plant in its pot through the winter will result in a sad looking plant that you probably won’t think is worth the time and effort to plant.