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Belgian mums are a hit again this year
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Shop quickly if you expect to get any Belgian mums this fall because they are disappearing like snow cones in July.
Chrysanthemums have always been the premier fall plant, but this year the Belgian mums have added an even greater furor for these boldly colored flowers. They are popping up on porches and patios everywhere bringing a festive look to the landscape.
There are more than 25 selections of Belgian mums grown in the United States. The names are a little tricky compared to the old standards. Very early flowering varieties are Temptress and Urano. For early season look for Camina, Cesaro, Jambo, Molfetta, Novare, Padre, Savona, Siam and Terano.
Mid-season varieties are Celino, Frimo, Mistretta and Prato. Look also for late-season varieties like Carpino, Dark Veria, Sapiro and Tripoli. One of my favorites is Orange Atlantico.
These are no ordinary, fall-flowering, winter-hardy chrysanthemums. Belgian mums produce an abundance of flower buds in a quantity much greater than any other mum.
If you started counting the buds on these plants, you most likely would need a calculator. If a gardener looks closely, you will see many mums with upwards of 600 buds ready to open. I feel certain that some I have seen even have 1,000.
Every year I try to urge gardeners to buy mums while they are still in tight bud so they get the most landscape value for their purchase. Admittedly, sometimes I feel like I have failed; most mums are hard to sell without color showing. But with the arrival of the Belgian mums, things are changing. These plants have so many buds that gardeners are quick to realize their superiority.
An exceptional feature of the Belgian mum is its durability. We have all bought mums and packed them in the car only to unload them at home and realize we should have been more careful. The backseat is loaded with broken branches.
While other mums break branches easily, the Belgian mums can take a lot of abuse without damage. The first time a grower urged me to squeeze the whole plant tightly, I thought he was trying to make a quick purchase because they would surely break. I squeezed and unbelievably, it bounced back like a sponge.
The other day my son and I were playing catch with a football, and I missed a pass. The ball flew into the middle of the Belgian mums and didn't break a branch.
The Belgian mums are mounded in shape and require no pinching or staking. Treat these like your other mums. After they succumb to freezing weather, trim the foliage back to just above the ground and give them a good layer of mulch. It is not uncommon to have a good spring bloom of mums. After this, cut them back again to get ready for fall.
The hard part about the Belgian mums is getting yours before they get gobbled up. The names are tricky to pronounce, but don't let this throw you. These are great new mums that will probably change the face of our industry for years to come.
Hopefully your garden center still has some. I know our growers do. If you can't get any this year, at least you will know what to look for next year.
It is an exciting time to be a gardener. With new plant varieties like the Belgian mums and others pouring in from around the world, it makes you always want to keep your eyes open at the garden center.