GROWING AND CARING FOR CHRYSANTHEMUMS

TREMENDOUS strides have been made since the war in the breeding of chrysanthemum varieties and every year sees many new ones arrive while some of the old favourite ones disappear. The choice is so wide as to be bewildering without some form of guide. The two main divisions are early-flowering (outdoor) and late-flowering (indoor) but within these two broad divisions varieties are further subdivided into classes according to the flower shape.

Although the hardy Koreans and rubellums may be increased by lifting and dividing the plants, most garden and greenhouse chrysanthemums are increased by cuttings, rooted in the greenhouse. However, those who have neither the time nor the inclination to propagate their own plants, may buy rooted cuttings from nurseries from February onwards.

Cuttings of early-flowering (outdoor! Varieties are taken in March. The ‘stools’ of.the old plants, that is the plants after they have been cut down, are over-wintered in boxes of soil in the cold frame. They should be brought into the warm greenhouse in February, watered and sprayed overhead with clear water in bright weather. They soon start to make short, sturdy growths from the base, which are used to make cuttings.

The shoots are cut off when they are about 3 in. long and trimmed just below a leaf-joint using a clean, sharp razor-blade. The lower leaves are carefully removed and then the cuttings are inserted an inch deep and an inch or two apart in seed-boxes or small pots. These should be filled with John Innes Cutting Compost or Seed Compost. They are then thoroughly watered through a fine rose. Cuttings will root readily enough on the greenhouse staging, especially if the boxes or pots are covered with muslin held above the cuttings. This provides a close, still atmosphere and diffuses bright sunlight, thus preventing the soil from drying out quickly. Every effort should be made to keep the temperature around 45 degrees F and ventilation will be needed during the day when the sun shines. Some heat may be needed on cold nights. Watering should be done carefully. Keep the soil just moist – more water will be required if the weather is bright and sunny than on dark, cold or rainy days. Also in warm, sunny weather it is beneficial to damp down the staging and the paths early in the day to provide a moist atmosphere.

Cuttings root in about three weeks at this time of year. About a fortnight after they have rooted, that is about five or six weeks after they were inserted, their roots should be about I to 2 in. long. They will then be ready for potting on. For this operation it is best to use 3 in. pots, plastic or clay, filled with John Innes Potting Compost No. 1. One rooted cutting is potted into each pot. The plants should not be firmed too much at this potting; it is enough to give the pots a sharp tap on the potting bench after they have been filled.

The compost should be just moist when used and the young plants should not need watering again, for about a week. However, they must be kept cool and shaded from bright sunshine for this period to prevent them from wilting. After this they should be given more light and plenty of air and watered when necessary. The aim should be to keep them growing now without checks. Sturdy, compact plants are produced by growing in light, cool, airy conditions.

Too much heat and insufficient ventilation will produce thin, lanky plants which will not grow so well outdoors.

As soon as the weather warms up in late April the plants should be gradually hardened off by moving them to the coolest part of the greenhouse and then, after a few days, they should go out into the cold frame. Plenty of air should be given but avoid draughts.

The plot chosen for outdoor chrysanthemums should be dug over and enriched with compost or I^- 2 lbs. Of hop manure to the square yard. Allow I feet between the rows and put the young plants 15 ins. Apart in the rows.

It is a good idea to put in 4-ft. Bamboo canes at each planting position and then plant the young chrysanthemums at the foot of each cane. The young plants will probably have been grown in small pots, so do not take out too large a hole. Just make a hole with a trowel large enough to take the ball of roots and plant it in gently, but reasonably firmly. Leave a slight depression in the soil around each plant – this helps when watering. Water the plants after planting if the soil is fairly dry, and thereafter see that they never go short of water. They will probably need watering every few days for a week or two after planting, if the weather is dry. m.

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