Nurseries have great supplies of "garden" mums right now. These are varieties that have been bred and selected to stay short and to produce quantities of small, cheerful flower heads. Here are some pointers.
• Mums require full sun to reach their full potential. They show best if there are low, evergreen shrubs behind them.
• Look for full, symmetrical plants that have lots of buds and fresh flowers.
• Choose colors that will complement their surroundings, and remember that masses of one single color show up far better than mixtures of colors.
• Space the plants 18 to 22 inches apart in well-prepared garden soil. At the most, they should barely touch one another.
• Allow them to bloom as long as they can. Then, once they’re through flowering for the season, cut them back to within just an inch or two from the ground. Next year’s stalks will come up from the ground.
• Don’t be surprised if the plants produce flowers next spring. They bloom when nights reach a certain length, and there is a time in mid-spring, when nights are the same length as they are in the fall. Allow them to bloom for a few weeks, then prune off the flowers, fertilize the plants, and encourage them to produce vigorous vegetative growth.