After summer flowers fade, fall flowers take the stage in our gardens—and mums might be the most celebrated fall flower of all. With dense masses of flowers available in a rainbow of bright colors, mums are essential for fall decor. Here's how to care for them, whether you're adding a few pots to your front yard or planting them in your garden.
- Botanical Name: Chrysanthemum
- Common Name: Chrysanthemums, mums, garden mums, florist mums
- Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: 24 to 36 inches tall and wide
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Soil Type: Moist, well-drained soil
- Soil pH: 5.7 - 6.2
- Toxicity: Mildly toxic to dogs, cats, and horses
Plant mums outdoors in springtime so their root systems and flowers have time to get established before winter. While you can plant potted garden mums that are already growing, there's less of a chance they will survive until spring. Choose a spot with moist, well-drained soil, and mix organic compost into the hole or bed before planting.
Mums need about an inch of water each week. If you plant mums in spring, you can feed them with organic fertilizer once per month through summer. Skip fertilizing mums planted in the fall that you intend to treat as annuals.
To create the full, dome-like shape of classic garden mums, you'll need to pinch off the first buds to stimulate growth. Use your thumb and forefinger, scissors, or pruners to remove the end of each stem. Stop pinching before midsummer so the remaining buds can grow into fall flowers.
If you plan to overwinter your mums, mulch around the roots with a few inches of organic mulch, such as hay or shredded leaves.
Best Growing Conditions for Mums
Mums grow best in a spot that receives at least six hours of full sun per day. They don't do well in hot weather, so wait until it's cool enough in your growing zone to display them outdoors. If you're planting mums in the ground, choose a spot with good drainage.
Types of Mums
The two main types of mums are florist mums and garden mums. Florist mums are cultivated in greenhouses and meant for indoors; the potted mums you might receive as a gift are typically florist mums. Their root systems aren't strong enough to survive cold winter weather, so if you do plant them in the ground, plan to treat them as annuals and plant something else in their place in spring.
Garden mums are more cold-hardy and will fare better planted in the ground as perennials in zones 5 through 9. Garden mums can be planted in the ground or in containers outdoors.
How to Propagate Mums
Mums are easy to propagate by dividing existing plants. Divide mums in the spring as new growth begins to appear. Note that mums can cause skin irritation, so wear gardening gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself. Here's how to propagate mums in your garden.
What You'll Need
- Healthy, mature plant
- Clean, sharp knife
- Gardening gloves
- Shovel (optional)
- Plant pots (optional)
- The night before you'd like to divide your mums, water the plants well.
- The next day, use the shovel to dig around the mother plant and gently lift the root ball out of the soil. If the plant is potted, carefully use your hands to remove it from its container.
- Use the knife to divide the root ball into at least two sections, ensuring each section has part of the root system and several new shoots. Cut out and discard any dead portions of the plant during this process.
- Replant the divisions in the ground or in containers with fresh soil as soon as possible, then care for your mums as usual.
Common Problems With Mums
Mums are generally hardy and easy to care for, especially since they are often displayed during their one to two-month bloom period and then tossed. But some pests and plant diseases can affect mums, including fungal issues, bacteria, and insects.
The best way to prevent disease issues with your mums is to water the soil directly to keep the leaves dry, which helps prevent bacteria, fungi, and other plant pathogens from taking hold. To control fungal issues like powdery mildew and white or brown rust, apply a fungicide according to package directions.
Underwatering and overwatering can also cause plant problems. Mums affected by drought will look woody and undersized. The leaves of overwatered mums will turn yellow and then black before dropping from stems.
How to Get Mums to Bloom
If your mums aren't blooming as much as you'd like, they could need more sunlight. You may also need to pinch them back from the time buds set in the spring until midsummer, but be sure to stop by mid-July. Once your mums flower, deadhead the spent flowers to encourage continued blooming.
Are Mums Easy to Care For?
Yes. In the right growing conditions with proper attention, mums are pretty easy to grow.
How Long Can Mums Live?
In areas with relatively warm winters, mums can survive for three to four years before they should be divided. However, in colder growing zones, low temperatures may kill off the root system of plants kept outdoors, so it's best to bring potted mums indoors for winter if you'd like to enjoy them the following season.
Can Mums Grow Indoors?
While they grow best outside, mums can also be grown indoors in the proper conditions. Put them in a place with lots of bright, indirect light. Since they prefer cooler temperatures, indoor mums may benefit from spending nights outside as long as there's no danger of frost.