Chrysanthemums

Q. I have some beautiful potted chrysanthemums I purchased from the nursery. If I plant them directly into the garden, will they return next spring?

A. Although many garden mums are considered hardy, there are some precautions you can take to encourage their healthy return. Potted mums should be planted directly into the ground in a very sunny location as soon as possible so that they can develop a sturdy root system before winter. Water the plants well to encourage root growth, but do not apply fertilizer until next spring. When the foliage browns later this fall, cut the plant back to several inches, but apply mulch only after several hard freezes. At that time, mulch the plants with 6 to 8 inches of shredded material to help keep the ground temperature relatively constant. Remove the mulch early next spring as new growth appears. Pinch the new shoots regularly until early July to encourage full-bodied plants.