Last week I pulled the straggly petunias, non-blooming geraniums and mildewed licorice plant out of my window boxes.
Most annuals and perennials are in a growing slump (kind of like the Cincinnati Reds), and we need to find something to accommodate autumn’s decor.
A quick pick-me-up could be chrysanthemums, which are synonymous with fall. Mums have been vigorously hybridized, allowing you to choose from many amazing colors and shapes.
Some familiar ones are spider, daisy or pompom mums – known as the cushion types – or the Belgian mums that took 20 years of research to develop.
Mums in window boxes or containers can be treated like annuals. Mums are considered a tender perennial in central Indiana and have a better survival rate if planted before mid-September.
Mums are heavy feeders and respond well to a weekly watering and fertilization. They don’t like to sit in water, and if you get the leaves wet, you may find mildew or veticullium wilt.
Pinch off the faded blooms for there are many little buds underneath that would like to bloom if they could only see some light.
It is important to not cut the stalks down before frigid weather arrives. These browned stems help hold the mum in place when the winter winds blow. You need to heavily mulch the plant too.
Ornamental cabbage and kale – both edible – also compliment mums and fall pansies. Ornamental cabbage has broad, flat leaves; kale has curly, frilly ones. The color appears in center of the plants and intensifies when the nighttime temperature falls below 60 degrees. These flowering beauties need a sunny location with regular watering and a couple of fertilizer applications.