What a year of “Weather” 2017 has turned out to be! It is unbelievable how many areas were flooded and we were Dry to the Bone, here in Central Illinois. I just hate to see all the trees that are dying due to the lack of rain! Anyway -- in late spring when the rain finally cleared up in our area, I took some of my houseplants outside. I have hardly ever do this, but I thought, “I am just going to give it a try outdoors”.

I have had two Thanksgiving Cacti for about five years. They may have bloomed a couple of times during that time, but they were not really getting much bigger. Since placing them outside, I have had to repot them already twice this summer, and they are four times bigger than they were. Now that I am ready to bring them inside, I need to repot them again! So perhaps it is good to place those plants out in the elements. Now I just hope they bloom!

Fall is the time of year to buy Mums, and I have. Hardy mums in the fall are like Tulips in the spring. The reason they are hardy is because they tolerate the dipping temperatures of cold autumn nights, unlike many other plants in the garden. Mum, is short for chrysanthemum and most gardeners are familiar with two types. One of those is the more flashy chrysanthemums, bought at a floral shop either potted or sold as a cut flower. These are usually sold for floral purposes--not gardening. Their blooms tend to be very flashy and elaborate and the plants are sometimes referred to as florist chrysanthemums. They don't over-winter in Illinois because they don't establish strong roots.

The other chrysanthemums are the ones seen blooming in September, October, and sometimes, as late as November. These hardy mums are grown as perennials in our area. In September, these plants set many flower buds and explode with blooms shortly thereafter. Hardy mums are perennial in zones five to nine. The plants have many branches and can get quite large to appear almost shrub-like. Staking is often necessary for hardy mums that get too tall. They are a good plant to divide also when they become too large. These plants are available in a wide array of colors. There are also many different flower-bloom types, including the very common pompoms, anemone, cushion, spider, quill, and daisy petals.”

Planting hardy mums is similar to planting other plants. They can be planted in the spring or the fall, but they need be planted in full sun to get the really nice blooms. Fall is a real good time to divide you other plants also. A good rule of thumb for dividing perennials is early bloomers in early fall and late bloomers in spring. September and early October are good months for starting or redoing your perennial garden. Plants like the bearded iris, bleeding hearts, peonies, oriental poppies, and Madonna lilies (after their tops wither) are just some of the selections that are recommended for fall planting. Tall perennials are better cut back before being moved.

If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener volunteer at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.

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