Garden Mums – 2019 Production and Protection Tips

This post was contributed to by Drs. Sarah Jandricic and Chevonne Dayboll.

Summer is in full swing, and so too are garden mums.  As you get ready for the next few months, here are a few tips to keep your crop on track.

Drip line irrigation can be a more efficient way of delivering water and nutrients to outdoor crops.

Irrigation method matters!

There are plenty of options for irrigation in potted outdoor crops, but not all are created equal if you are trying to maximize your water efficiency.  Overhead irrigation by boom, or sprinkler is not efficient if your pots are not spaced tightly.  Canopy sizes in the later months of production may make this impossible, especially if you choose to go with final spacing when pots first move outside.  These methods of irrigation can also lead to pots that are too dry (not watered) or too wet (over watered). Plants can only use water that makes it into the pot, so low volume drip line or tape is a more effective way to delivering usable water to your outdoor crops.

Remember drip line only reduces lost irrigation volumes if it is used properly! A “set it and forget it” approach doesn’t work. Look for kinked lines and clogged emitters, and make sure connections are tight. Know your application volumes and irrigate based on crop needs and weather patterns, not a set schedule.

Interested in improving your water use efficiency?  Check out this blog post that highlights how to calculate volumes used and applied in an easy way.

outdoor 3
A garden mum pot on low volume drip irrigation. The pot below measures the amount of irrigation that was not captured by the plant, giving the grower a better idea of their water use efficiency.

Fertilizer choices:

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to fertilizer types for garden mums.  Some growers prefer to have more control over crop nutrition and choose water soluble mixes.  The benefit of this is that mixes can be quickly changed if needed.  Others choose to use controlled release fertilizers incorporated into the growing media and then irrigate with water only. 

As with irrigation, its important to remember that nutrients that don’t stay with the plant can’t be used by it. The amount of nutrients staying with the plant are usually highest when controlled release fertilizers (CRFs) are used with carefully monitored irrigation.  They are usually lowest when water soluble fertilizers are applied in high volumes (resulting in a lot of irrigation running through pots) and irrigation efficiency is low.  To keep the fertilizer where you want it, it’s important to irrigate only enough to saturate the pot.  Both formulations have their pros and cons, so make sure whatever you’ve chosen is easily managed.

Water Soluble Fertilizers Controlled Release Fertilizers
  • Higher risk for leaching
  • Fine tuning advantage for production needs (i.e. need to green up before shipping)
  • Volumes of irrigation applied greatly influence the impact
  • Choose the right product based on your irrigation methods, formulation and the release curve
  • Ask supplier to verify the product and rate against your production needs before incorporating

Looking for more information on water and fertilizer use in outdoor crops?  Check out research summaries from Flowers Canada and the Soil Research Group here and here.

Pest Issues:

The good news is that garden mums grown outdoors simply don’t get the same pest pressure as pot mums.  Why?  A lot of this has to do with natural enemy populations from surrounding agricultural lands that seem to keep a lot of pests in check.  So avoid spraying if you can.  If you DO spray, do yourself a favour and chose something that’s compatible with beneficials so you don’t end up with a bigger problem on your hands from secondary pests.

Some pest issues you may see are:

  • Aphids. We sometimes see these pop up in garden mums.  If they do become a problem, it seems to be later in the season (late Aug/Sept), so wait to apply pesticides until you actually see them (this also helps avoid unnecessary applications!).  Beleaf (flonicamid) is a good option as it’s a) soft on beneficials and b) can be applied via drench through irrigation lines, and c) is cheap!
  • Leafhoppers. These can fly in from the same surrounding agricultural lands as your free natural enemies, and can seem like an issue since they jump around plants a lot as you pass. The good news is they don’t seem to do any real crop damage.  Resist the urge to spray, and simply make sure your workers give plants a good shake to dislodge any adults before packing.
  • Thrips. Rarely a problem outside, good old western flower thrips – and even onion thrips – can affect garden mums grown indoors. As with thrips attacking pot mums, a predatory mite sachet per pot is your best bet for long term protection for spaced plants.  Amblyseius cucumeris (rather than A. swirskii) is the more economical choice for this crop.  Given how quick the crop grows, penetration of the soil with drenches of nematodes may not be feasible at this point, so a good secondary measure is foliar applications of Beauveria-containing biopesticides (BotaniGard, BioCeres), if needed.
  • Japanese beetle. While generally not a problem on garden mums, recall that all plants produced outside from June 15 to September 30 need to be treated for JB if you plan to export or ship to a JB-free zone. See this post for details.
  • Diseases. Chrysanthemum white rust – a quarantinable disease – is theoretically possible, but has only been detected in Ontario once in the last decade thanks to regulations requiring plant material be sourced from white rust-free facilities.  Still, many growers treat as a precaution with Nova (mycobutanil), especially when exporting.  Other diseases, such as bacterial blight, Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia are more common, but generally aren’t big issues in Ontario production.  If problems develop, a good guide to disease symptoms and cultural management in garden mums can be found here.
mum sachets
One mite-sachet per pot provides protection against thrips when garden mums are grown inside. Remember to tuck your sachets within the plant canopy to provide the right humidity for optimal performance.

Want to improve your natural enemy predation outside? Some growers in the U.S. use banker or “companion” plants such as alyssum, calendula and borage along field edges to attract parasitic wasps, Orius and syrphid flies.  Check out this research from the University of Vermont.


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