Question of the Week: November 17, 2016
“Neil, how should I handle my chrysanthemums now that their flowers are turning brown?”
You probably bought your mums in a local nursery six or eight weeks ago. They were colorful for much of the ensuing time, but now their heads are turning pinkish-brown and unattractive. Even the leaves seem to be shriveling, and you’re wondering what you should do.
The answer is really quite simple. Look down near the ground and you’ll see small shoots starting to emerge from the base of each flowering stalk. Those will be next year’s stems, and you can actually remove everything down to them. Trim off the spent flower heads and all of their stems. Do not trim any of the new clumps that have started to emerge. Leave perhaps 1 or 2 inches of each stalk to serve as markers over the winter.
And that’s it. The new clumps will sit there all winter before they spring out with new growth in March. If you intend to dig and divide your mums, you can either do so immediately after you trim off the dead stems, or you can wait until just before the new growth commences in late February.
Other perennials such as cannas, mallows, coneflowers, Shasta daisies, salvias and others are handled in much the same way. Old flower stalks can always be removed. So can browned foliage. Green foliage, on the other hand, should be left in place. It’s still actively storing sugars into the plants’ roots to boost good growth next year.