Early Summer Pruning of Chrysanthemums – Budded Mums

Question from Deborah:

I live in N.C. and planted mums several years ago.  They bloomed last year in the fall and are in full bud now, June some are showing color.  Should I let them go or pinch the buds?  I would like them to bloom in the fall again.

Answer from Pat:
Usually chrysanthemums only bloom in fall when the day length and temperature are appropriate, but In greenhouses growers can trick chrysanthemums to bloom at any time of year by fooling the plant with lights and coolers. Perhaps odd temperatures are making the flowers on your plants too eager to bloom. Disbudding (explained below) won’t fix this problem. If the flowers want to open too soon they will do so. If you disbud too much the plants might not have time to produce more buds.

I suggest you take hedge shears and cut off about one or two feet off the height of the plants, removing all flower buds along with green growth. This can be done with many perennials, such as Shasta daisies, in June (for example if you were going to be away in July) to make them bloom about one month later and lower in shape with even more flowers than they would otherwise have. What happens is that the plants will then branch and once again put on buds to bloom lower and at least one month later. (Keep a calendar and mark down what you do so next year you can try it again if it works.)

Here are general rules for chrysanthemums in other years when they don’t look as if they will bloom too early: For sturdy flowers and big blooms start pinching back chrysanthemums in spring and pinch often. For large blooms also disbud them by taking off the side buds and leaving just one or three to a stem. But if you want masses of bloom and long-lasting garden color, then let the buds all grow or some of them. It’s up to you. Personally I love that look in a garden, don’t you? And it’s less work. In the cutting garden it often makes sense to disbud, but when growing for masses of color, why bother? Unless growing cushion mums, you will need to stake them also.

After cutting your chrysanthemums back, follow up with water and fertilizer.

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  1. Thanks so much for the advice, we are having hot late summer weather here this year, could explain everything.

    • Odd weather can produce strange effects in plants, but cutting off even as much as one half or two-thirds in early summer, will stop early, unseasonal bloom. Your chrysanthemums will branch and when they bloom in fall will be lower and studier, not as tall as they would otherwise have been. This works for asters too. After cutting back, follow up with water and fertilizer.

  2. I know chrysanthemums bloom in fall, but when? How late? I have many buds on my plants, but no blooms yet.

    • Every chrysanthemum variety has its built-in time clock depending on daylength. Some bloom early, in October. Many don’t bloom until November. If skies are cloudy and rainy, this
      can delay bloom. Temperatures can also be a factor.

  3. Hi Pat,

    I have lots of buds in my red and purple color chrysanthemum plant, but of late the buds are opening to become a leaf instead of flowers. Can you please explain why is it happening so… I am from India (Mumbai)

    • Chrysanthemums are programmed by nature to flower in fall. Their cycle of growth and blooming is triggered by day-length and to some extent temperature. This is true of many plants and if one can figure out exactly what temperature and/or day-lengths a plant needs, then it is possible to make them bloom at any time of year. Since the middle of the twentieth century, growers have known how to make a chrysanthemum bloom at any time of year. Chrysanthemums are not well adapted to the hot tropical climate of Mumbai. Chrysanthemums grow wonderfully well, however, in gardens in the foothills of the Himalayas, where there is mild, cool-winter climate, with sunny summers and distinct autumns. In Mumbai, India your climate is far warmer than ours here in California and your climate is wet in summer. This might cause mildew and rust on chrysanthemum. You perhaps purchased your chrysanthemum plant in a flower shop or at a nursery garden and it had probably been grown in a greenhouse in which it was made to think that the days first lengthened (to make it grow) and then shortened (to make it bloom) so perhaps you bought it in spring in full bloom which is not natural for chrysanthemums. Now in May, usually the hottest month in Mumbai, it is too hot for your chrysanthemum to stay in bloom and the flowers have died and you have cut them off. Now in May the days are still growing longer as the sun moves to the north. As the days grow longer this makes your plant make leaves not flowers. During this period, fertilize it so that it makes lots of green leaves. You can take cuttings and plant them in flower pots or the ground. They grow quickly. Or you can just let the plant you have grow as much as possible and pinch back the tips of the growth to make it branch. After the summer solstice in late June, the sun will begin to move south again, then the days will be growing shorter again and buds of flowers should appear at the tops of the stems above the leaves. It is not time yet. Many people disbud chrysanthemums after the flower buds appear so they will make few flowers but larger ones, but this is not necessary. If growing in the ground, stake plants up so they do not fall over. In autumn (October or November) they should bloom. I hope my explanation has helped you understand what is going on with your chrysanthemum. I have heard that my book about gardening in Southern California (“Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening: Month by Month”) has been sold in Mumbai, India. Have you seen it there in bookstores?

      • Thank You so very much for clearing my doubts. I will certainly check the book mentioned by you in the bookstore. But the guidelines in that book are the same for Mumbai weather month wise ?

        • The monthly jobs in my book would doubtless have to be adjusted by you because the weather in Mumbai is so much hotter. Mumbai is about the same latitude as Puerto Rico and Hawaii, whereas Southern California is the same latitude as the Northern Algeria, way north of Mumbai. Also, Mumbai has a tropical climate, but Southern California has a Mediterranean climate. So I think you will have to adjust the advice to fit your needs. Basically though, things like when or how to plant, prune or feed tropical plants should be similar. I think my book works better in northern India—in places like Jhodpur and Udaipur or in the foothills of the Himalayas (and I think that may be where it is sold), but the basic advice on what care plants need should be of some help. You would have to take a look and see.

  4. Hello Pat,
    I had bought red coloured mums, but the new buds which are blooming have changed to yellow flowers instead of red. Can you please let me know, what went wrong.

  5. Dear pat ,
    Myself Ganesh from North East India (Tripura state). how to select best cuttings ? is there any parameter ?

    • Here in Southern California we take cuttings of chrysanthemums in late February or early March. This is a good time also to take cuttings of other plants, including marguerites, butterfly bush (Buddleia davidia), russellia and fuchsia. All of these plants grow best from “softwood” cuttings. Softwood cuttings are taken from fresh tip growth that is still bendy and not woody. You will know when it is right since it will snap in too if you bend it too far. When plants are too woody the cuttings will bend but will not break. Here is a link to one of my books that explains how to take softwood cuttings: http://books.google.com/books?id=xhmUrvunsV0C&pg=PA121&dq=Early+in+the+day+take+softwood+cuttings,+3+to+5+inches+long,+from+the+soft+bendy&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SSPyUNPbFObOiwLoo4GYAg&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Early in the day take softwood cuttings, 3 to 5 inches long, from the soft bendy&f=false

      You can adapt your timing in the Tripura State of India by taking cuttings when these types of plants put out fresh growth and when it is long enough to take the cuttings. Cuttings of these plants root very easily in spring. But the main reason for taking cuttings at that time is that if you take cuttings of chrysanthemum too late in the year there will not be time for growing the plants to the proper size so that they will bloom in fall when they should. My books contain instructions for continuing the growth, care, and pinching back of chrysanthemums in month- by-month format.

  6. i have a question, could you tell me when do the chrysanthemums bloom in india, thank you

    • Chrysanthemums grow best in India in the foothills of the Himalayas, due to cooler temperatures. All parts of India lie north of the equator, thus regardless of where in India you grow chrysanthemums, they will bloom naturally in autumn. Depending on variety and climate, most chrysanthemums will begin blooming in September, have greatest bloom in October, and taper off in November.

  7. I live in Lahore Pakistan. I bought 8 pots of mums in the fall and enjoyed the flowering although they were attacked by tiny insects and I had to spray them twice with pesticide. I want them to bloom again in the coming autumn. The plants are lush green at the moment due to the prolonged spring showers but what can I do to protect them from the coming heat and the monsoon rains which will follow?

    • Do not try to save the plants as they are now for another year because they will not amount to anything worthwhile. Instead, first fertilize so that the plants grow fresh new growth. Then when this is about 8-inches long, cut these fresh branches off (ie: make cuttings.) Pull off the bottom leaves and replant these cuttings in fresh soil mix in pots or the ground. If planting in the ground, build a raised bed so the soil won’t get water-logged during the monsoons. The cuttings should sprout roots with ease, though it’s best to do this in March and would be helpful if you could find a rooting compound to dip the ends of the stems into and thus make them root more quickly. Fertilize throughout summer to keep the plants growing rapidly and pinch them occasionally to make them branch. One can also dis-bud them to make larger flowers, but this is not necessary. (Do you have a copy of my book which explains how to do this?) When the monsoons come, cover the plants with plastic held up on sticks so the plants will not get crushed down by the weight of the rain. In other words, create a little greenhouse for them. I hope this works because, of course, chrysanthemums are not native to Pakistan. They are more easily raised in the foothills of the Himalayas.

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