It’s hard to think of a flower that screams fall as much as mums do. These plants pop up practically everywhere this season, with good reason. They are hardy plants that can withstand the changing climate and add lovely pops of colour to your porch. Here’s how to care for mum flowers and keep them thriving.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked in the fall is how to care for mums and extend the blooms of these hardy plants! Hardy Mums, Chrysanthemums, or Fall Mums are everywhere in the fall: garden centres, grocery stores, and seemingly everyone in the neighbourhood’s front porch.
These vibrant autumn bloomers are easy to care for and come in many different colours and sizes, making them a great choice for any garden or fall planter project. They also happen to be affordable and, with the proper care, can last quite a while.
Many people just buy a potted mum in the fall and toss it away after its blooms are finished. With a little care and know-how, you can actually overwinter mums and even propagate them so that mum flowers you bought in the fall can keep brightening your garden year after year.
Read on to find out how to choose, plant, overwinter, propagate, and care for hardy mums.
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Why Grow Hardy Mums?
Hardy mums are drought-resistant, don’t generally get a lot of diseases or attract pests, and are very low maintenance. Additionally, this late-season bloomer comes in a wide variety of colours and sizes, so it will look at home in any style of garden.
Fall mums can be planted in containers or in the ground and take well to propagation and creative planter projects like pumpkin planters.
Tips for Picking Mums That Will Last
Many garden centres are selling hardy mums for fall, as they are such a great way to add some vibrant colour to the autumn garden. I’ve also seen them in grocery stores, as well as home improvement stores.
Here’s a simple tip that can help you choose the longest-lasting mums possible. It can be tempting to buy a plant that is already bursting with gorgeous jewel-toned flowers but pick one that is not in full bloom yet. Instead, choose a plant that has a lot of buds and lush green foliage that does not look at all wilted.
Fall mums that are already covered in open flowers may be at or past their peak blooming time and will not last much longer, while plants that are just at the budding stage will give you a much longer display. It’s worth the wait!
A well-selected mum should give you blooms for 3-4 weeks, helping you to extend the joys of the growing season.
How to Plant Mums in the Garden
If you wish to transplant your hardy mums from a container to your garden, be sure to do it before the first frost of the season. The earlier you get your mum in the ground, the more likely it will survive the winter.
Make sure you plant them in a location that gets about six hours of sun per day and has well-draining soil.
Do not fertilize mums in the fall, as this can negatively affect blooming. If you purchased your mums in the spring, you can fertilize them up until early summer. I tend to only fertilize potted plants as anything in the garden is already getting what it needs via soil!
Watering Hardy Mums
Mums require little on the gardener’s part, except for a little watering. Water new transplants thoroughly and often, never letting them dry out completely.
Once established, you can reduce watering to once a week. Browning bottom leaves and dropping flowers are signs of not watering enough.
Overwintering Hardy Mums
You can overwinter hardy mums, but to do so, they need sufficient time to set their roots and become established in the garden. This means that your best bet is planting them in the spring so that by the time winter rolls around, they are ready to handle it.
However, if you bought and planted your mums in the fall, you can still overwinter them as long as they went into the ground before the first frost—they will just need a little extra care.
Don’t prune fall-planted mums. The wilted brown foliage will act as protection from the harsh winter cold. After the first frost, mulch mums generously. A thick layer of leaves covering them will do wonders for winter protection.
Overwintering Mum Flowers in Pots
If your fall mums are in pots, keep them there over the winter. You can move the potted mum flowers to a protected spot such as beneath an evergreen tree with low sheltering branches, by the side of a building, or inside a garden shed. This will shield them from the cold and help them survive the winter.
Overwintering will only work with hardy mums. Florist mums make a lovely annual but will not come back year after year.
Spring Mums Care for Fall Flowers
If you overwintered your fall mums, cut back the old stems as soon as you see them beginning to re-grow as one of your spring gardening tasks.
To encourage your mums to bloom again in the fall, you will need to “pinch” them. This means that once the plant has grown to about five inches in height, you should cut one to two inches of new growth from each shoot. After the plant grows another four to five inches, repeat the process.
Keep doing this until mid-July for bushy mum flowers that bloom like crazy in the fall. If you do not pinch back your mums, they will bloom in mid-summer and will not bloom again in the fall. And we want as much colour in the fall as possible!
Propagating Mum Flowers
Mums take very well to propagation. To get even more mums, take a cutting of new growth and remove the bottom leaves. Plant the cutting into a small pot filled with good quality, well-draining soil.
To speed up the rooting process, dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone before planting it in the soil. Once the plant has taken root and is growing healthily, you can transplant it to a larger container or to the garden.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mum Flowers
Without pinching, mums will naturally bloom in mid-summer. To prevent this, you want to begin pinching the plant for every 5 inches of growth beginning in the spring through to mid-July. Then, you’ll get the classic fall blooming mums.
If you buy potted mums, you can expect them to also bloom in the fall. For the most part, you won’t even begin to see mums until the end of summer to early fall, when the plant already has buds and blooms.
If it’s before the first frost, you can try to overwinter your mums by planting them in the garden. This allows them some time to set roots before the cold settles in. Don’t prune them, and cover the base with a good layer of mulch.
You can also try to leave them in the container. In this case, move them to a place where they’ll be protected, like underneath an evergreen tree or in a garden shed.
There you have it. You can now enjoy the beauty of mums all year long! Let me know of any more questions in the comments down below.
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