Mums, otherwise known as Chrysanthemums, are a great way to keep late-season blooming power on your property. They add beautiful fall colors when most of your traditional summer flowers like zinnias, geraniums, and impatiens start to fade off and die.
No other flowers say Fall quite like the welcoming blooms of mums! Whether you purchase them from your local garden nursery or have them planted around your property, mums are a great addition alongside pumpkins, hay bales, and all your other fall decor.
However, there are a few keys to keep in mind if you want to see those jewel-colored blooms last late into Fall.
Varieties of Mums
Although there are over 5,000 different varieties of mums, they come in two main types.
Florist/Cutting varieties are treated more like annuals. They have shallow root systems and cannot handle the colder temperatures of winter.
Hardy/Garden varieties are considered perennials in zones 5-9. They have a deeper root system that isn’t as likely to freeze as the annual varieties.
Mums come in beautiful, rich fall colors such as red, orange, bronze, yellow, lavender, purple, pink, and white. They range in width and height from 1 to 3 feet wide and tall.
Keys To Keep Mums Blooming Late Into Fall
Choosing The Right Mum
One of the best ways to make sure your mums stay blooming long into Fall happens before you even bring them home.
While you are at the store, it might be very tempting to want to grab the fullest mums with abundant blooms. However, you want to stay away from full-blooming mums unless you need them for a display in the next week or so. Mums at this stage only have another week or two of prime color and will start to fade soon after.
Even mums that are partially blooming aren’t the best choice either. Instead, make sure to grab one of the mums that is full of tightly closed buds. At this stage, the blooms will not only last longer, but you will also be able to actually extend their bloom period and make the most of your purchase.
In addition to picking out a mum with tight buds, make sure the plant has plenty of room to expand. Mums purchased at local nurseries or stores are often rootbound. You can always re-pot to allow the mum’s roots to have more room to spread out. Read more tips on caring for potted plants in the podcast, “How To Keep Your Baskets Flowering All Summer.”
The Right Location – How To Keep Mums Blooming
Mums are more than capable of handling full sun, but it is actually better to provide them with some shade. If the mums are in a location with full sun, the light can actually force mums into full-bloom mode. In addition, the added heat can shorten their blooming cycle time.
Instead, choose a location that has more shade with just occasional sun exposure so they can still develop buds. This can extend the mum’s bloom life by as much as two full weeks or more. Keeping mums on porches, patios, or even under trees helps avoid the harsh sun rays as well as protects the blooms from hard rains.
Keeping your mums watered often and the correct way are two keys to ensure your mums continue to produce blooms.
Your flowers can easily get scorched, even in the dry and less humid weather of Fall. This occurs especially if the mums are in pots or containers. If you allow their roots to dry out for an extended period of time, it will greatly reduce a mum’s bloom cycle.
Check your plant’s soil daily by sticking the tip of your finger into the soil. If it feels dry about an inch or so below, then it’s time to water. Your mums will likely need to be watered at least once a day. On really warm days, you should water them more often.
Water Them Correctly
In addition to frequent watering, how you water also makes a big difference to mums.
If at all possible, you want to avoid watering from the top down. When the blooms of a mum become frequently damp with water, they can start to weaken and fade. It can actually cut a bloom’s life in half if they are often saturated with water.
Instead of watering from above, water at the base of the plant at either the edge of the containers or below the foliage when watering in-ground plants with a hose.
Depending on your climate and the type of mum you purchase will determine whether you want to deadhead your mums or not.
For annual mums, you should cut off any dying blooms. This allows the plant to spend its energy on producing new blooms as opposed to repairing fading ones. Simply cut a spent bloom’s stem off a few inches down (this is just to makes sure you aren’t left with a bare stick poking through the top of the plant).
If your hardy mums are already established in the ground, it’s actually best if you don’t prune them in the Fall. Leaving on the dead foliage will actually help the plant to survive the colder temperatures than a mum that is pruned.
After Fall Care For Mums
Although both types can survive a light frost, neither variety will be able to survive freezing temperatures in pots or containers. When nighttime temperatures dip below freezing, make sure to bring plants inside a garage or someplace warm.
You may choose to overwinter potted mums in a cool, dark area such as a basement or garage to allow them to go dormant. Trim the plant down to pot level and water once a week so you can keep the roots from completely drying out.
Once the weather starts to warm up in the Spring, you can set them back outside again. Spring is also when you should plant perennial varieties of mums. Planting in the Spring allows the plants to establish their root system before the cooler weather months.
If you prefer not to overwinter your mums, however, don’t just throw them in the trash. Consider adding the spent plants and soil to your compost pile. They will break down and help to create nutrient-filled soil you can use once Spring arrives.
To learn more about overwintering hardy mums, check out this great article on “How To Keep ‘Hardy’ Mums Year After Year.”
Mums are definitely a great way to add beautiful Autumn colors to your home and property. With just a little care and attention, they will reward you with blooming interest all season long!