Fall is here and many of us are transitioning our summer annuals to include our favorite fall decor.

Making good selections of fall plants and other natural materials not only adds to their longevity, but also maintains their appearance when balanced with some simple, consistent care according to an article featuring University of Illinois Extension horticultural educator, Richard Hentschel.

I thought it might be handy to offer a few tips and tricks that can help you maintain and extend your version of a colorful and lasting display of fall splendor this season.

Mums

Know your purpose.

Are you simply looking to add a splash of fall color, or are you looking for a more permanent addition to the landscape?

Many common mums are not winter hardy. These popular varieties are recommend for use in containers for short-term seasonal interest. If you are considering mums for the landscape, be sure to choose a winter hardy variety.

Take a bloom inventory.

Whether purchasing mums to include in fall containers or in your landscape make sure to check out the number of blooms. Best practice is to select a healthy plant that is not more than 50 percent in bloom or just beginning to flower.

Care for the plant.

Show seasonal and permanent plant basic and consistent care.

Don’t ever let your mum dry out and wilt. Be sure to provide adequate water, and sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can create over-dry conditions and faded blooms.

For hardy mums, be sure that you purchase and plant immediately and directly into the landscape.

Once the mum has finished blooming be sure to trim back a portion of the foliage to ensure a healthy plant emerges after winter.

Feed and snip spent blooms.

Keep your mum blooming all season with a light fertilization, and by gently snipping spent blooms. This practice is also helpful if you would like to maintain the mounded shape your mum plant.

To learn more about caring for your mums, check out these resources:

• University of Wisconsin-Mums for Fall Beauty at https://learningstore.uwex.edu/Assets/pdfs/A1646.pdf

•  University of Illinois Extension-Pinch those Mums! at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/eb253/entry_8429/

Pumpkins and gourds

Seasonal natural materials and items such as pumpkins and gourds make a great addition to both indoor and outdoor fall decorations, and are a great companion for dear ol' mum.

Stem identity. Select your pumpkins and gourds with at least a 2-inch stem. Those with shorter stems may not last the entire season.

Avoid injury. Select specimens that are injury free. Pumpkins and gourds showing signs of bruising or dark marks, have soft spots or cuts will decay faster.

Select with a site in mind. Utilize varieties of pumpkins and gourds with the right shape, size, color, and height that fit the site you intend to display them.

Stay cool. Display your selections in a shady, cool, relatively dry place. Over exposure to excessive moisture, heat, and sunlight increase the chances of softening and deterioration.

 To learn more about caring for your decorative pumpkins and gourds, check out these resources:

• North Carolina Extension Cooperative Extension-Preserving Pumpkins and Gourds Properly at https://wilson.ces.ncsu.edu/2009/11/preserving-pumpkins-and-gourds-properly/

• University of Nebraska Extension-Choose, Store and Decorate Pumpkins and Gourds for Fall Displays at https://lancaster.unl.edu/hort/articles/2013/GourdsDeco.shtmlhttps://lancaster.unl.edu/hort/articles/2013/GourdsDeco.shtml

Cabbages and kales

These traditional cool season ornamental crops have become another trendy addition to natural decoration.

When adding ornamental cabbage and kale to your fall plantings or seasonal décor, choose plants that are fully developed and free of insect damage and disease. With basic care, they should last well into the season.

For more fall gardening and seasonal decorating tips, check out these resources:

• University of Illinois Master Gardeners of Knox County Decorating with Natural Materials at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/downloads/65431.pdf

• Fall Activities in the Garden at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/downloads/65434.pdf

• Planning for Fall Color and Interest at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/downloads/65435.pdf

 

Heather Neikirk is a Stark County Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources for the Ohio State University (OSU) Extension.Contact her at 330-832-9856 or neikirk.2@osu.edu.