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I live in Western Pennsylvania. I never trimmed my mums since their last bloom in the fall. Is this the right time of year to cut them back? And how far down to the ground should I cut them? As of now, they are tall and completely brown with dead flowers on them.
Cut them back to the ground. They will come up with new growth each year. Normally, you cut them down after the first frost.
You can trim them almost to the ground or just until you see green where you cut but be sure there is no more frost or cold spell expected as this will generally kill your newly trimmed mums.
Prune now. Pruning in the spring increases the chance of winter survival.
Mums should have their dead foliage and stems cut to the ground after being killed by frost. However, no harm is done. They can be cut back, now. Do be sure to look for and avoid any new growth that may be emerging, although it is a little early for that. You are correct in your terminology. The procedure is called 'cutting back'.
To promote stockier plants and more blooms, the plants can be kept trimmed to a certain height up until around July 4. You would not want to trim them after this date as they will then begin to set bloom buds.
For larger and more showy blooms, the plants should be disbudded as soon as the buds are large enough to do so. This involves removing all the smaller buds around the one central and larger bud.
A slow release fertilizer is good for the mums but do know that they are rather heavy feeders. I gave my mums lots of water during their most active growing period. A well drained soil will help prevent root rot.
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Can I cut mums now?
By judy from Omaha, NE
As soon as the frost kills them back.
An expression I always heard: "Prune till June."