Hardy Mums

In the UK, hardy mums are mothers with great resiliency, but here in Michigan, they’re colorful fall flowers. Mums can be planted as perennials, which will come up year after year, but require a lot of summer maintenance to keep them looking full and bushy. That’s why many people here use them as fall annuals. We plant them in September and October, when summer annuals and perennials have begun to fade and look scraggly. This year I bought a flat of small mums for about $15 that had tightly closed flower buds, and planted them in my window boxes and flower pots. It took awhile for the plants to fill out and grow, but now I have a beautiful riot of colorful mums that look fresh from the greenhouse.  Local greenhouses here usually stock mums  into late October and early November, in all stages of bloom, so I’ll often buy a couple late in the season and use them indoors for a cheery burst of fall color, or for Thanksgiving decorations, if I can still find good ones that late in the season. 

The other hardy mum.

Hardy mums prefer cool temperatures, which is why they thrive long after summer flowers are gone. They will remain alive until there is  a hard frost. If planted in the ground, they can be cut back and will come up the next year, but usually never look as good and full as the first year they were planted. Container mums can be thrown in with yard waste compost once done blooming.

Many people pair hardy mums with pansies, another cool weather plant. The  squirrels in my yard religiously dig up any fall pansies I’ve ever tried plant, so I’ve given up on them, but  the mums also look great alone or can be paired with late ferns, perennial sedum, or pumpkins and gourds. Hardy mums come in brilliant colors of yellow, orange, rusty red, maroon red, purple, light yellow and white. I like the yellow, reds and purples best, which make a nice compliment to the fall landscape.

Brilliant! (© Huffygirl 2011)

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 © Huffygirl 2011

HuffyHow: Coreopsis, the hardiest perennial I know

Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’, Coreopsis verticillata is the hardiest perennial I know. I started with one plant. It grew into a delightful cloud of delicate yellow flowers and slender foliage, with absolutely no encouragement on my part. When it finally outgrew its original spot, I decided to divide it. I dug up the clump in the mid July heat, set it aside while I did other gardening chores and forgot about it. The clump of Coreopsis soldiered on boldly, now sans soil, and continued to bloom and grow. About three to four weeks later, it finally dawned on me that I had never replanted poor Coreopsis. I found the clump sitting atop a flower bed, no worse for wear, despite nearly a month of near-total neglect. I took the clump and whacked it into two separate plants with my shovel. One plants found an immediate home, nestled next to a small purple azalea. The other clump sat above ground again, until I gave up finding a good spot for it, dug up the soil where it was sitting, and plopped it in. This year the two plants sprang up again, overfilling their new homes. They thrived where they were in part to full sun, with little attention from me. I did manage to scatter some fertilizer around them, something which I’m sure surprised them after their years of near-total neglect. They did not require any spray when all the plants around them were insect-chewed and fungus blighted.   

 A week ago, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the summer so far, I again decided to move the   

Coreopsis verticillata aka "Moonbeam"


Coreopsis. This time I was not so unkind as to leave them atop the dirt. I whacked them into four plants and replanted. Their flowery heads dropped a little after this harsh treatment, but one watering can later, they perked up and looked as if they had never been moved.   

 I don’t recommend uprooting your perennial mid summer and whacking them in half on the hottest day of the year, but if you’re an opportunistic gardener like me, who conquers garden chores whenever you have time, instead of on schedule, then Coreopsis verticillata is for you.  One or two plants will bring you more Coreopsis then you’ll ever need. You can tuck them in almost anywhere, where you want an airy, feathery filler. They grow about 12-18 inches tall, so put them behind the shorter plants. Although I divide mine whenever, dormant time is best for dividing, either spring or fall. They look great paired with purple flowers or any plants with silvery-grey foliage, but really look fine with just about anything at all. They are drought, fungus and insect tolerant, and perfect for beginner gardeners, or those like me who expect their plants to buck up and survive on their own. Coreopsis grows in zones 4-8.