Phlox and Mums – A Timely Tip

Many folks tell me they can’t bear to throw away any plants no matter how many they have.  I never ask, but I often wonder what they do with them all, since if you garden for a while you have millions (or at least hundreds) of various strong growers.

Yes, you can give them to friends — and that’s ok — if the people really want them.  I have a feeling that many plants that are given end up in the trash pile because the recipient does not have the same interest as the giver.

Many plants are so hardy and multiply so quickly that if you allowed them to stay they would soon take over everything else and your beautiful borders and/or garden would be a mess.

I’m sentimentally attached to a pink and a white phlox given to me by a dear friend about 20 years ago that is one of those plants.  But it’s beautiful and I wouldn’t want to be without it, especially since it blooms at a time my borders need the color.

Unfortunately it can spread so rampantly that at times I feel like digging every bit up and getting rid of it.  I wouldn’t, but even if I did it would still be there.  It’s impossible to get all the tiny stolons out of the earth and they will continue to grow — even if it takes a while for you to see visible signs.

Pictures show phlox that has spread into daylilies.  If not eventually removed, it will so entwine with the lilies that it  keeps them from blooming to their full potential.

How to Keep Phlox and Mums Short and Beautiful Get Drastic

There’s something else I do to my phlox and that is: cut it back hard just when its looking beautiful and about a foot or so high.

Several plants in my borders get the same treatment – especially mums.

After seeing my mums in the fall, customers ask me how I make them “short” and beautiful.  I tell them, but they don’t usually do what I say because they just can’t believe that to make their mums look grand in the fall they have to cut them to the ground just when they are starting to look good.  They pinch them instead and end up — again — with long, tall, fall-over mums that look bad in most gardens.

I guess they’ve seen the information instructing gardeners to “pinch” mums until July 1st.  Thirty-two years ago I pinched mums.  It didn’t work. I got drastic and they started looking wonderful.

When mums reach about 6 to 18 inches in mid-April (as in the picture above), I cut them to the ground.  When they recover again sometime in May, I cut them by half. I take out the thin stalks and pinch remaining ones until July 1st.  Drastic, but the results are great. I follow through with phlox the same way.

Think Long Term

If your mums and phlox are beautiful now, think long term.  You’ll be glad you did when fall comes.


Additional Reading:
Phlox – A Good Plant – but it bears Watching.

Phlox and Mums – A Timely Tip

Planting perennials – Is Bigger Better?


Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.


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