Like many gardeners, I have a tradition of buying two pots of mums for my front porch every fall. When the houseplants retreat back inside, and the porch furniture is put away, the mums remain as the last sentinels. As long as their bushy mounds of color remain, winter is kept at bay.
Mums are the rock stars of the fall garden. Hundreds of hardy cultivars provide an array of various colors and bloom shapes, so there’s something for every taste and garden.
Because of their tight, mounded habit and stunning bloom cover, garden mums are perfect for mass plantings. Look around your yard to see what colors would best complement the existing landscape.
If you decorate for fall with pumpkins and gourds, choose orange, bronze, yellow, and creamy white chrysanthemums. If you have a lot of evergreen plants that provide a backdrop of varying shades of green foliage, try bright pinks, lavenders, pure whites, or reds. Mix several colors together, or stick to only one or two colors for maximum, long-range effect.
Some mums can be kept over the winter to re-bloom the following year, but you’ve got to know how to care for them. Here are top things to know about mums; information comes from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the National Chrysanthemum Society, HGTV Gardens, SF Gate and Better Homes and Gardens.
When choosing a chrysanthemum, your two basic options are “florist” or “hardy” mums. Florist mums are large-flower plants grown in greenhouses and used only as indoor plants. Florist mums can’t survive cold weather.
Garden, or hardy mums, on the other hand, can survive cold better. Some cultivars are less hardy than others and can be killed by an early spring frost.
Mums aren’t as expensive as many perennials, so you can plant them as annuals without worrying that you’ve spent too much money.
For potted mums, cut off the flowers after they wilt, to encourage further blooming.
If you want something more permanent and are willing to provide proper care — such as mulching and pinching to encourage compact growth and more blooms — plant mums in the spring and allow them to get established in the garden. This will improve their chances of overwintering and re-blooming the next year.
Most garden mums are perennials in Zones 5 to 9. Plant the mums in well-draining soil that receives full sun. Fertilize well to encourage blooms. If the mums produce spring blooms, pinch them back before late summer to encourage fall flowering. Before winter, cover plants with several inches of mulch or straw.
Leaving the dead foliage on mums and asters instead of shearing for neatness will help hardy mums survive winter.
Mums grown as perennials need to be divided every couple of years. Plant each piece in a new hole with some organic matter and fertilizer.
- How can I get my mums to bloom again?
- Indoor Mum Care: Growing Chrysanthemums Indoors
- How to Grow Mums Indoors
- Can You Keep Mums Inside Over Winter?
- How to Keep Your Mums Thriving
- 3 Simple Tricks To Keep Your Mums Blooming Longer This Fall
- Fall Mum Care
- Caring For Fall Mum Plants
How can I get my mums to bloom again?
- Chrysanthemum ‘Coral Cavali’ Chrysanthemum ‘Coral Cavali’ Photo: Barbara L. Johnston, MCT
Photo: Barbara L. Johnston, MCT Image 1 of / 1
Image 1 of 1 Chrysanthemum ‘Coral Cavali’ Chrysanthemum ‘Coral Cavali’ Photo: Barbara L. Johnston, MCT How can I get my mums to bloom again? 1 / 1 Back to Gallery
Q: The blooms on my potted mums are spent. What can I do to get them to bloom again? — S.S., Houston
A: They won’t flower again this year, but should next fall. You can keep them in containers or plant them in the garden in an organically enriched, well-draining soil and in five to six hours of sun. Since the blooms have faded, cut the plants back to 2 inches above ground and mulch heavily.
During next year’s growing season, pinch a half-inch or so from the tips to encourage large, bushy plants with many blooms. Discontinue pinching about two months before the anticipated fall bloom date. Water and mulch to conserve soil moisture and discourage weeds.
Apply a balanced fertilizer until buds show color. Avoid excessive nitrogen; it encourages growth with fewer blooms. If you fertilize too late, blooms may droop.
Indoor Mum Care: Growing Chrysanthemums Indoors
Chrysanthemums are common gift plants and can be found as such year around. This is because they have been tricked into blooming by either hormones or manipulation of light exposure. Chrysanthemum houseplants require lower light to force blooms. They can be quite difficult to get to re-bloom in an interior setting but in warmer climes should be planted outside where they can get the appropriate lighting and resume their normal bloom schedule.
Potted mums are not the same as the hardy varieties that go into garden beds. They are more sensitive to cold and light changes, but you can find them any time of the year and bloom for several weeks in the home interior. Growing chrysanthemums indoors is easy and requires little special care beyond watering, good soil and drainage. Once the blooms are spent, you can keep the plant around for its deeply etched foliage.
How to Grow Mums Indoors
Mums are generally ready for interior growth at purchase. If the plant is pot bound, you can transplant it to a slightly bigger container, with good drainage holes and fresh houseplant soil. An important tip on how to grow mums indoors is to position your plant inside where it receives bright light during the day but isn’t under a street or security light at night. Excess lighting can throw the plant’s bloom production off and cause it to stop flowering.
Regular watering is a crucial part of indoor mum care. Water the plant from under the leaves to help prevent fungal issues when caring for container mums. Deadhead if you wish, to keep the plant looking its best. Keep chrysanthemum houseplants where they can receive good air circulation and avoid excess humidity.
In most cases, caring for container mums is a short lived project. This is because they flower for 3 to 4 weeks and then stop. Indoor conditions are not correct to force them to re-bloom and creating the correct conditions is a pain in the neck. For this reason, most indoor gardeners simply compost the plants after they are done flowering. This may seem heartless, but mums are relatively inexpensive and very easy to find.
The plant doesn’t have much to offer after the flowers are done except some deeply notched foliage and a nice little bush shape. During the time you have it in your home, it shouldn’t need feeding. If you wish to keep the plant around, do fertilize it in the growing season once per month with a soluble plant food and suspend feeding in the winter season.
Can You Keep Mums Inside Over Winter?
Obviously growing chrysanthemums indoors is possible, but the real question is will it flourish and bloom and, if not, what do we do with the plant? Each mum cultivar is slightly different but on average it takes 9 ½ hours to force buds and 10 ½ hours for flowers to form. Add to this a requirement of 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 C.) for bud formation and 55 F. (12 C.) for flower development. Most households do not have the cooler temperature available nor do they want to live in the dark that long.
You can successfully keep a mum around the home all year long if you wish with very little attention beyond watering. A better option for anyone in temperate to warm zones (USDA zones 8 and above) is to plant the mum in the ground. The indoor plants are not terribly hardy but if you mulch the root zone the plant will probably live, re-sprout in spring and bloom in fall as an outdoor specimen.
How to Keep Your Mums Thriving
Colorful mums are a great way to decorate for fall. Their bold golds, reds, and browns herald autumn, and nothing says “harvest time” quite like a pumpkin surrounded by a few pots of colorful mums. However, now that the weather is colder, you may be wondering how you can keep these flowers thriving.
First, it is important to distinguish between florist mums and garden center mums. If your mum came from a florist, it probably is a greenhouse cultivar that not well suited to overwintering. On the other hand, most garden center mums are the hardy variety that will offer you further seasons of blooming with just a little planning and care.
Winter Prep for Outdoor Plants
If you planted your mums in the ground in the fall, you can leave them there during the winter. However, it is a good idea to add a new layer of mulch. Mounding straw or evergreen needles around the plant will help protect the roots during any repeated freeze/thaw cycles this winter. You also can use leaves for the same purpose, but be sure to shred them or you may cause more harm than good. In fact, a thick, soggy blanket of leaves could cause mums to rot.
Also, resist the temptation to cut back your mums’ foliage. You can remove the spent flowers, but that aboveground growth gives the plant protection from the cold. Keep the soil around your plants slightly moist during winter dormancy as well, and make sure the ground area has good drainage since mums are susceptible to damage in soggy soil.
Since potted plants are more vulnerable to the cold weather, it is best to bring your containers of mums indoors for the winter.
After the first frost, cut back the brown foliage and stems, leaving about one inch of growth visible above the soil. Then, move the plant to a dark area that is normally between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit consistently; a basement, garage, or unheated storeroom works well. If temperatures will drop below 32 degrees there, wrap the bottom and sides of the pot with several layers of newspapers for protection.
After making sure the pot has adequate drainage, water the mums so that the soil is slightly moist.
Keep your dormant mums indoors until about a week before the last expected spring frost. Then, slowly acclimate them to the outdoors by taking them to their warm weather location outside for two or three hours each day. Bring them back indoors over night. The next day, increase the time outside by an hour more and continue this process until after the last expected frost when you can begin growing season care.
Don’t be dismayed when your indoor and outdoor mums look more dead than alive in the spring. At this time it is safe to trim off the old brown foliage, but leave areas that reveal new spring shoots untouched. These shoots will grow into another full-sized plant by the end of the summer.
When the new plant is four to six inches tall, you can pinch back the stems to encourage fuller growth. Continue pinching new shoots that are three to five inches long until around the middle of July. Also, keep the soil moist, and add a liquid or granular fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen and potassium.
Keep in mind that your rejuvenated plants will look decidedly unremarkable until they eventually burst into color in the late summer and early fall.
Annuals or Perennials?
You may still want to purchase a few colorful new mums next fall to add to your seasonal display—they are usually inexpensive after all—but you will get the ball rolling with your overwintered plants.
You can help any new mum purchases survive next winter by planting them in the ground soon after you get them in the fall. Choose a location that is protected from harsh wind. Then, break up the root ball around the edges and gently work the roots into well-drained soil and water well.
Whether you overwinter your mums inside or outside, you will have the satisfaction of “perennial-izing” a plant many people toss away each year as an annual. I have some mums that have been thriving for a while, and it is always such a nice surprise to see their colors emerge again year after year.
Looking for a way to keep those gorgeous mums blooming longer?
Without a doubt, mums are the go-to plant for fall decorating. They add amazing color, texture and vibrancy to autumn displays like no other plant can.
But unfortunately, their blooms just never seem to last quite long enough. Especially when you consider how expensive they can be to purchase!
Mums are the perfect choice for bringing big color to fall displays.
Yes, it is true that chrysanthemums will only bloom for a specific length of time. But there are a few key secrets to keep them blooming big and beautiful a bit longer during the autumn season.
And as you will see below, if you are careful of what you buy, you can also keep those mums alive through winter to use again next year.
Now that is a win-win for the pocketbook!
3 Simple Tricks To Keep Your Mums Blooming Longer This Fall
#1 Purchase Budding Mums, Not Blooming Mums
This is where it all starts when trying to get longevity out of your chrysanthemums. At the very moment of purchase.
Those big, beautiful plants in full bloom may look enticing in the store, but they are also already more than halfway through their life cycle.
And, unless you need them for an instant display today, it’s best to avoid them all together.
Look for mums that are full of buds, or are just beginning to open up. These plants are just coming into their prime, and will bloom for weeks and weeks.
One of the very best ways to keep a mum for the entire fall season is to purchase it before it is in it’s prime.
Look for plants that are full of buds, or barely beginning to open up. These mums will bloom longer, flowering for up to 45 days or more.
A far better bargain than just a week or two!
Look For Mums To Keep!
One final note on purchasing mums. When buying, look for hardy mums.
Hardy mums are mums that can handle overwintering.
Hardy mums can be planted into the landscape, providing years of fall color.
And that means not only will they give you a beautiful display this fall, they can then be re-planted into the landscape to provide years of fall blooms! (See : How To Keep Your Hardy Mums Year After Year)
#2 Keep Plants Cool And Shaded
Make no mistake, chrysanthemums thrive in full sun. But that sun and heat also speeds up the blooming cycle of the plant.
Full sun forces a mum into full-blown bloom mode. In addition, the added heat and stress of the sunlight shortens the life of the blooms that appear as well.
Mums kept in partial shade will hold onto their blooms longer.
But kept in a partially shaded location, mums keep their blooms for a much longer period of time.
Partially shaded patios, porches or under the canopy of a tree are all perfect locations for getting the most from your mum bloom time.
#3 Keep Your Plants Hydrated
Last but not least, keep those mums watered!
The quickest way to shorten a mum’s bloom period is with inconsistent watering.
Autumn’s temperatures may be cooler, but the dry air can quickly take moisture from potted plants.
Check the soil of your plants daily with the tip of your fingertips. If the soil is dry, water well.
And when you water, water gently. The best method is to put the nozzle of your hose or watering can under the blooms.
Heavy water on the blooms can both damage the blooms and shorten their bloom cycle. When blooms become saturated with water, they can weaken and fade at a faster rate.
The quickest way to bloom failure for mums is a lack of water. Infrequent watering will quickly result in bloom and plant failure.
Some gardeners don’t water from the top at all. Instead, they opt to sit their pots in a container and water from the bottom, allowing the water to soak upward into the roots.
Self-watering containers work perfect for this chore, and keep plants watered for up to 5 days or more.
Here’s to keeping you mums blooming longer, and looking beautiful all fall long!
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Fall Mum Care
Caring For Fall Mum Plants
The change of the season from summer to fall brings us the warm colorful sight of chrysanthemums – commonly known as mums, decorating doorsteps, porches and patios. This hardy autumn favorite comes in a variety of colors, including the traditional yellow, rust orange, barn red and white as well as some softer colors such as purple and pink. While they are hardy and will comfortably tolerate the cool, almost-freezing, temperatures fairly well, they are not immune to frost. Just one frosty night can do them in. Here are some tips to help make them last longer.
Choose A Healthy Plant
When choosing your mum plants, choose ones that are not in full bloom. Although mums in bloom may look more attractive when purchased, they are already well into their life cycle. You have no way to tell if the blooms on your plant have just opened or have been open already for a few weeks. Closed blooms tell you the plant is in an earlier stage of its life cycle. When they do bloom, they will last longer than those that are already putting forth flowers. Another thing to check is to make sure the leaves are green and the stems are not broken or bent.
Pick the Right Container
A solid, sturdy container will help anchor the top heavy plant and will also support the clusters of blooms. Choose a container that is about 1/3 larger than the plants root ball on all sides is ideal for re-potting.
Re-Potting Your Mum
Gently remove the mums from the original container. If necessary, moisten the root ball to aid in removal. Line the bottom of the pot you will be transferring your plant to with clean potting soil (about 1 to 2 inches) and place the root ball on top of the added soil. Next, fill the remaining open area loosely with potting soil – do not pack the soil. The plant roots need aerated soil to expand.
Place your freshly potted plant in a sunny area and intend to keep the soil moist, but not saturated. Giving them too much water will result in rotting stems and can create mushy, decaying blooms. Remember to deadhead your plants as needed and remove any dead or damaged flowers, leaves, and stems to keep your mum looking healthy and fresh.
If a frost warning is a possibility, move your mums to an inside area that is protected such as a garage or shed the evening before. When the temperature reaches above 50 degrees the next day you may place the plants back outside. Another method for protecting your mums from frost is to cover them with old sheets or towels or sheets making sure to cover all exposed areas of the plant.
With these tips you’ll be enjoying the beautiful color and welcoming feeling of your mums for a lot longer!