How to Care for Chrysanthemums: 6 Things You Need to Know About Mums

It's autumn and that means it's time to show off a garden full of mums! Here's how to care for chrysanthemums this fall.

The star of every autumn display has got to be those lush, gorgeous mums in harvest shades of yellow, burgundy and orange, or pretty pinks, purples and whites. Here’s how to care for chrysanthemums, plus how to choose the best plants for your fall garden.

Explore Annuals and Perennials

Chrysanthemums are either florist mums, which are best used as annuals, or garden mums, which can be grown as perennials.

If you picked up your mums from the fall display at the corner store or supermarket, it’s probably a florist mum. They’re bred to be beautiful but won’t survive the winter.

Want hardy garden mums for your perennial garden? Your best bet is to ask for them at a garden center or nursery.

Choose the Best Location

In zones 5-9, plant perennial garden mums in a full-sun spot. Well-draining soil is crucial to keep the plants healthy and ensure they’ll return next year. Work organic matter into poor or compacted soils before planting your mums.

Florist mums are perfect choices for containers, to make stunning fall displays near entryways and in window boxes. You can also plant these annual mums in your garden to bring end-of-season color after summer annuals are spent.

Plant Chrysanthemums Early

Plant your perennial mums in the spring. This gives the plants the most time to establish root systems and gain strength before the first frost. Chrysanthemums grow up to three feet tall and up to two feet wide. Space your mums so they won’t be crowded. Their shallow roots cannot compete with other plants for moisture.

Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball, adding rich soil to the hole as you plant your mum. Add a layer of mulch at the base of the plant to help keep the soil moist.

Water Perennial Mums Often

Keep your perennial mums well-watered; they need a lot of H2O and are susceptible to drying out. You can prune the tips of branches to encourage growth; two or three times is usually enough, stopping by mid-summer so the plants will bloom in the fall.

Choose the Right Potted Annual Mums

Buy potted, annual mums that have lots of closed buds—these will bloom the longest for you (think: if they’re all blooming now—there won’t be much to look at later). Since they’re usually root-bound, transplant them to larger containers if possible. If you can’t re-pot them, set the pots on water-collecting saucers, so they stay hydrated longer after watering. And water often!

You can keep chrysanthemums indoors to improve air quality, too.

Use Cut Mums in Arrangements

In the morning when plants are hydrated, cut the stems at an angle. Remove leaves that will be underwater and immediately place stems in tepid water. Bring the stems in water (with plant food added if you’d like) to a cool, dark place to rest overnight; this conditioning will extend the life of the cut flowers. Then, arrange your mums in a decorative vase. Learn more about how to arrange bouquets on a budget. And if you love cut flowers, think about a flower subscription!

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.