How to care for Mums is a popular gardening topic around the end of summer. As you start to plan your fall garden, Chrysanthemums – Mums for short – will likely end up on your list.
Mums have minimal care needs and can act as perennials or annuals, depending on your USDA zone. With the right watering, lighting, and nutrients, you can enjoy Mum’s bright rainbow colors throughout fall and winter as the rest of your garden turns brown and dormant.
Keep reading to learn how to care for Mums properly so you don’t end up with Mum plants that won’t bloom. With years of decorating and growing Mums under my belt, following my advice will prevent you from being like my alter ego – the Plant Killer.
Table of Contents
- How to Care for Mums?
- Are There Common Issues with Mum Plants?
- Are There Some Tips for Mums Propagation?
- How to Pot – or Repot – Mums?
- How Do I Prepare Mums for Overwintering?
- Mums – What are They?
- What Are Some Types of Mums?
How to Care for Mums?
One of the biggest factors that will affect the growth and health of your outdoor Mums is healthy stock. Therefore, you want to get your plants from a reputable source and choose strong specimens.
And even more importantly, you want to get your plants at the right time. Buying Mums too early is one of the biggest causes of Mums’ care failure.
You shouldn’t bring Chrysanthemum plants home until the weather has turned cooler and your area is getting daytime temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.56 degrees Celsius).
Once you get your plants home, follow the tips below for how to take care of mums.
More Light Means Brighter Colors
Chrysanthemum plants are durable and versatile. They can do well in shade or sun, but you’ll get the best color and growth by providing six hours – minimal – of direct sunlight exposure.
Does that mean you should pick the most open, unsheltered area in your yard and toss your mums there? Not exactly.
Your mums’ plants will also appreciate afternoon shade during the warmest parts of the day. Cool temperatures and short light cycles encourage Mums to grow properly – the technical term is photoperiodic if you’re curious. It means they require more night than day.
For this reason, make sure the planting location you choose for your Mums is not around night lights, street lights, or other artificial lighting sources.
Use Soil That Drains Well
Mum plants prefer well-draining soil. They demand it. Allowing your soil to stay wet for too long can cause the roots to rot.
They also like the dirt to be moist and organically rich, with a slightly acidic (6.2) or neutral (7) pH content. You can test your soil pH with a meter like this.
Water Mums to Keep the Soil Moist, Not Soggy
Many people have the most concern about how often to water mums. It may take some time to get the perfect balance of mum watering needs.
Your plants will require consistent moisture, with the soil staying evenly moist. But you have to be careful not to let the dirt get soggy.
The best method for deciding when to water your Chrysanthemum plants is by testing the soil’s dryness. You can insert your finger into the dirt down to your middle knuckle. Or you can use a bamboo stick, which will have a darker color to show where the water starts. A moisture meter can also be handy when caring for Mums.
Likes Moderate Humidity & Tolerates Flexible Temperatures
The hardiness is possibly the most compelling reason people love to use mums for their landscaping and decor.
These impressive plants can tolerate hot and cold temperatures. How hot, you ask? Some varieties of Mums can survive temperatures up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) – with the appropriate water and shade.
And many hardy mum flowers can bloom without pause in temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.667 degrees Celsius). But some hybrid brands can even tolerate zone 3 and 4 conditions, as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-34.444 degrees Celsius).
But what about humidity? Mums prefer a moderate humidity level. Too much moisture can cause plants to experience fungal diseases, like leaf spots. Proper air circulation can reduce these risks.
Fertilize Mums Every So Often
Mums are versatile, durable plants that can withstand unfavorable conditions with little effort. As heavy feeders, they can do well with the feeding of slow-release fertilizer during the spring growing season.
You can also dose your Chrysanthemums with a monthly treatment of water-soluble fertilizer from the beginning of the year until July.
And you may want to give your plants a dose of fertilizer in the fall to show you care and want them to be healthy.
Fertilizing mums after the heat of July can boost the development of new growths, which can get damaged by fall temperatures.
Pruning Mums Is Helpful
Mums are a fan favorite for their massive abundance of contrasting colored flowers. Your plants can grow heavy with beautiful flowers with no interaction from you.
But several benefits to pruning and deadheading (pinching) your Mums plants periodically exist. You should pinch outdoor perennial garden mums several times to encourage longer flower production.
So, what is pinching, and why are we telling you to do it to your plants? Don’t worry; we’re not asking you to be violent!
This term refers to removing the tips from new growths, which will cause your plants to produce side shoots. Pinching your Mums creates compact, bushy growth with heavy blooms.
Pinching Chrysanthemums should occur in springtime; once new growths are about 6″ long. Perform pinching every two to three weeks, removing half the new development. You can stop doing this once summer hits. Celebrate America’s independence and yours because you won’t need to pinch your plants again all fall.
But it would help if you always deadhead spent flowers year-round. Removing dead flowers keeps your plants looking great and encourages continued blooming.
Pests and Diseases That May Affect Mums
Another thing to love about Mums is that they’re naturally resistant to most insects and pests, like deer and rabbits, due to their pungent smell.
However, you may occasionally notice small insect problems, like leaf miners, thrips, spider mites, and aphids. You can treat your plants with an organic pesticide (neem oil works great!) if you notice trails, deformities, or fine webbing on the leaves.
Chrysanthemums are more vulnerable to diseases like aster yellows (causes yellow foliage), botrytis (this gray mold causes shriveling flowers), or fungal infections.
Fungal conditions to watch out for include verticillium wilt, powdery mildew, or leaf spots. A spray fungicide might protect unaffected plants. But removing the infected areas is probably best to avoid the fungus spreading to healthy stock. Fungus is most likely to spread on wet foliage.
Are There Common Issues with Mum Plants?
If you’ve decided to become a plant parent to mums, you may have concerns if you notice your mums babies looking unusual.
Leggy, Drooping Growth
When your Mums plants start to grow long leggy stalks that can’t support their weight and end up drooping or collapsing, it’s a sign that you didn’t properly pinch back your plant in the spring.
But it can also signify that your plants aren’t getting enough sun exposure and are trying to reach the light.
Hardy plants get the best growth if you severely pinch the blooms at least twice – spring to early summer is the best time. Pinching your plants prevents tall, leggy growth.
Mums Stems Break at the Soil Level
If you’re experiencing issues with the stems breaking off at the soil level, you’ve probably given your plants incorrect water or the wrong kind of soil.
They do not like being in dense soil with heavy clay that stays sopping wet. In addition, prolonged exposure to too much water can cause your plants to experience root rot, making the stems too soft to offer support.
If your mums are getting yellowed leaves, it’s most likely the result of a fungal or viral disease. So the best course of action is usually to remove any affected parts.
If the whole plant is infected, destroying the specimens gives you the best chance of protecting your other plants and preventing the spread of the infection.
Are There Some Tips for Mums Propagation?
Being able to propagate your plants – create new specimens from a parent plant – is an excellent way to have a bunch of Mums babies. But it also saves you from having to buy new plants each season! There are several ways that you can propagate new Mums plants.
Propagation of Mums by Root Clump Division
But, the easiest method of propagation is the division of root clumps. This process should occur in early spring.
To propagate by division, you’ll need to dig up your entire plant – including the full root clump and crown – in the spring when you start seeing new growth. Put your plant in a box or container after removing loose dirt from the roots.
Then cut the root clump into pieces using a sharp, sterile knife. Make sure each piece has healthy roots connected to the plant’s crown. Then replant each piece immediately, either in a hole in the ground twice the size of the roots. Or you can plant them in a pot.
Mums Propagation by Stem Cuttings
You can propagate mums via stem cuttings in the late spring or early summer. Once the new shoots reach 6″ to 12″ long, cut off 3″ to 4″ long stem tips with sterile, sharp pruners.
Once you have your cuttings, pinch the lower leaves free. Then you can cover the cut bottoms with rooting hormone. Then transfer your plants to a rooting medium. We recommend perlite or coarse sand.
You’ll want to keep your cuttings moist while waiting for the roots to develop. This process can take four to five weeks. You can transplant the cuttings once you have a strong root system and new leaf growth. Then, move your plants to a standard potting mix or into your garden.
Growing Mums from Seeds
Getting new Mums plants from seeds is not as easy as other propagation methods. The tiny seeds can take up to 16 weeds to germinate into mature plants that flower.
If you decide to try your hand at growing Chrysanthemum plants from seeds, you harvest from other plants. Unfortunately, mums freely cross-pollinate, so the seeds might not be the plant you expect.
To grow mums from seeds, use packaged seeds and start them indoors six weeks before the season’s last frost.
- Start with a slightly damp, fine seed medium added to a seed tray.
- Sprinkle your seeds onto the soil by rubbing your thumb and finger together while holding the seeds.
- Then add a thin layer of soil over the seeds and mist with water. Tamp each pod lightly to make sure the seeds are in the dirt.
- Locate your tray where it can get bright, warm light (at least 70 degrees F – 21.1 degrees Celsius). Your soil should stay slightly moist for the 10 to 15 days it should take your seeds to germinate.
- As the seedlings emerge, thin out the plants. However, wait to transplant them until your plants reach 3″ to 4″ tall.
How to Pot – or Repot – Mums?
A great thing about Garden mums is that you can get them to adapt to growing outdoors or in containers. Container growing is an excellent way to overwinter your plants. Potted mums can also develop as perennials.
Perennial grown potted mums require repotting every two to three years. And remember that mums you grow in pots outdoors will not do well when brought indoors as indoor winter plants. So instead, pick an outdoor area that offers shelter, like a covered porch.
You can use any pot to plant mums, as long as you make sure it’s set up for proper drainage. And fill your pot with a basic peat potting mix.
How Do I Prepare Mums for Overwintering?
If you live in zones 7 to 9, where winters don’t get too harsh, overwinter your plants by cutting them back once they stop blooming for the fall season. You’ll want to cut them to about 6″ tall.
But in climates with colder winters, like zones 4 to 6, you might want to leave the top growth attached. It’s also beneficial to cover your plants with a thick layer of protection, like dry mulch made with evergreen branches and straw). Then you can cut off the dead branches above ground level come spring.
If you live in zones three or lower, you might be able to dig your hardy mums up and transplant the specimen into a cold shelter. But the fickleness of garden mums means your odds are just as high that your plants will die from the shock as they would from being left to survive winter.
Mums – What are They?
Mums – no, we’re not talking about what makes the world go ’round – rock on, Mommas. Today, we’re using the word Mums as short for Chrysanthemums (yeah, that’s a mouthful). Even more bumbling is the scientific name Chrysanthemum morifolum.
These herbaceous plants belong to the Aster family and share many physical similarities to their family members – the daisy. As a funny note, another nickname for these plants is florist’s daisy. They grow one to three feet tall and one to two feet wide.
Chrysanthemum plants can also grow indoors and are referred to as florist’s mums. But, they’re more commonly used for bright pops of color outdoors when most other flowers have given in to the shorter, cooler days.
But beware of using Chrysanthemums in your decor if you have pets or small children. Mums have slight toxicity to people, cats, dogs, and horses.
Are Mums Plants Annuals or Perennials?
One of the biggest questions people have is, are mums perennials? Chrysanthemums fall into two classifications – annuals or perennial (hardy mums).
What’s the difference? The mums commonly used for decorating your outdoor landscaping in the fall are usually annuals. These flowers are typically displayed in pots and thrown away once they die.
Another popular question is, do mums come back every year? If you plant your mums in the garden – whether from seeds or plants – and they come back each year, you have perennial, hardy mums.
What Are Some Types of Mums?
The beautiful rainbow of colors may distract you from wanting to take home a plant of every variety. You can get Mums in a massive range of colors:
You should know about the different types of Mums plants before you start buying them. For example, there are 13 classifications of Chrysanthemum plants.
If you live in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9, you can have success with garden (hardy) mums grown outdoors.
Perennial fall mums are hardy mums planted outdoors in the spring in hardy climates. But florist mums can only grow outdoors in zones 7 to 9. So these varieties are typically displayed at the floral center inside grocery stores.
FAQ on How to Care for Your Mums
There is always additional information you can’t fit into an ultimate guide. So here are some answers to questions we might not have covered yet.
Can I plant a potted flowering mum plant in the garden?
Some potted Mums are safe to plant in the garden, but other varieties are not. Read the label or look up the specific mum species to ensure it is a hardy garden variety that can survive in your climate.
How do you use mums in landscaping?
Many people use Mums as annuals to add pops of color for fall decor. In addition, you often see potted Mums on patios, entryways, porches, or holiday displays. You can also plant perennial mums in your garden.
How to care for mums in pots?
Mums love full sun, so don’t feel shy keeping them in a window that receives lots of light. They can also grow as perennials. Which means that they’ll need to be repotted every two – three years.
How long do mums last?
Mums last anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks.
Make Your Home POP With the Colors of Mums
Mums can give you beautiful pops of color in the autumn when everything else starts to die off and go dormant. With a rainbow of color options to choose from and an easy maintenance schedule, you can enjoy mums as container-grown annuals or as repeat perennial bloomers when you plant them in zones 4 through 9.
Do you have success growing mums? We’d love to see photos and hear feedback. Share your Chrysanthemum growing tips or stop by and say hi-ya!
Enjoyed Learning How to Take Care of Your Mum?
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