10 Tips For Keeping Your Fall Mums Alive This Season
Do you struggle to keep your fall chrysanthemums alive during the blooming season? Fall mums are picky plants, and it's not uncommon to see them die quickly if not properly cared for. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen shares her top tips to keep your mums alive this fall.
Mums abound during the autumn months. From farmers markets to roadside stands, grocery stores to garden centers, it seems that Mums are everywhere. These hardy plants have a well-deserved reputation as a fall favorite gardening plant. Just as other summer-blooming flowers are turning brown, Mums begin their display of dazzling fall blooms.
But fall mums can often die off unexpectedly, leaving their owners wondering what they did wrong. Fortunately, mums are easy to care for. Yes, they can be plagued by certain common issues, but for the most part, proper maintenance goes a long way with these plants.
Mums can be enjoyed in their original nursery pots, transplanted into larger containers, or planted into a seasonal garden. For gardeners looking for something more permanent, “Garden” Mums can also be grown as perennials. There are many varieties of Mums available, and many ways to enjoy these versatile plants.
If you have recently acquired some chrysanthemums this fall, you may be wondering how best to care for them. We will share some simple tips for helping you keep them alive and thriving all season, and maybe into the next!
Start With a Healthy Plant
In the midst of Mum season, when you are surrounded by a seemingly endless assortment of brightly blooming Mums, it can be challenging to pick out the healthiest plants. Buying a healthy plant is an excellent first step for seasonal Mum-growing success. Start by identifying the color, or colors, you want to buy, and begin your search here.
Select plants whose leaves appear fresh, strong, green, and healthy. If possible, choose a plant that has not yet reached peak bloom. If your chosen plant has flowers primarily still in bud, you will get to enjoy a longer blooming period than a plant that’s already mid-way through its blooming cycle.
Do not buy a plant with broken stems, brown flowers, wilting leaves, or any signs of insect infestation. Make sure the pot is in good shape, not cracked or broken. Finally, take a look at the tag and see if there’s any indication about which type of Mum you have.
“Floral Mums” are commonly grown and sold as annuals, whereas “Garden Mums” are sold as perennials and may have more growing information on the tag. This information may be useful if you decide to grow your Mum as a perennial.
Provide Plenty of Sunlight
Mums love full sun, and will also be fine with partial shade. They should get at least 6 hours of bright sunlight each day.
Mums that don’t receive enough light will tend to grow tall and leggy and won’t bloom as fully. Be aware that growing a potted plant in full sun will dry the soil quickly, so you will need to keep an eye on the soil moisture.
Don’t Skip Watering
Mums like to be kept moist but not wet. Check your potted plants every day to be sure they are moist. You can check the soil moisture with your finger; soil should feel moist to the touch. You can also lift the pot and see if it feels light. If the soil is dry and the pot is light, give your mums a thorough watering.
Water Mums from above. Your pots should have drainage holes in the bottom. Water them until the water starts to come out the bottom of the pot, then allow the water to continue draining. You should check the pots daily, and water every time they start to feel dry. In warm, dry weather, you may need to water your potted plants several times each week.
Mums don’t like to dry completely, nor to they like to be constantly wet. Plants that are too dry will start to wilt. Flowers may turn brown and die prematurely.
Eventually the entire plant will dry out and die. Plants that are too wet are susceptible to root rot. Leaves will wilt and turn mushy, and eventually the entire plant will die. Fortunately, it’s easy to monitor soil moisture by performing daily checks.
Use Mulch in Beds
During the growing season, Mums appreciate a thin layer of mulch to help keep the roots moist. You can add wood chips, bark mulch, straw, or organic compost around the base of the plants.
This is easiest to do if you have transplanted your plants to larger containers or using them as an in-ground planting. Plants kept in small pots are difficult to mulch, so just be diligent about checking soil moisture.
Repot When Necessary
If you buy potted nursery plants and plan to keep them for just one seasonal bloom, you don’t need to worry about repotting. Simply enjoy your plants the way they are. Many people enjoy transplanting Mums into larger containers, or into a flower garden.
If you repot or transplant your Mums, put them into a space larger than what they came in and be sure to give them each plenty of room to grow. Space your Mums approximately 18 inches apart so they can reach their full size.
Select pots and containers with good drainage. There should be drainage holes in the bottom so the plants will never be sitting in soggy, undrained soil.
Use the Right Soil Mix
If you want to transplant your Mum into another container or into a garden bed, use some good quality soil. Mums like soil that is rich in organic matter.
They need soil that is loose and well-drained and a space that won’t hold water. You won’t find potting soil specifically for Mums, but any decent general potting soil should be fine. You can also mix their soil with perlite and vermiculite if your soil isn’t draining well enough.
Mums sometimes start blooming early or mid summer. If you have a Mum for the entire growing season, you can pinch back early flower buds to encourage it to produce one large flush of blooms in the fall. Simply remove all the flower buds during the summer until you are ready for your plant to fully flower in the fall.
Mums don’t require much pruning, but you can keep your plant looking its best by removing spent flowers. Any flowers that are past their prime, dry, and dead looking can safety be removed. They are easy to snip off with a sharp scissors.
Watch Daily For Pests
Mums tend to be quite hardy and not generally bothered by pests. Rabbits and deer generally don’t browse Mums, and they are resistant to many insect invaders as well. If you do notice something nibbling your plants, use a small fence to protect the plant.
Aphids are an insect pest that sometimes feed on Mums. You can often successfully dislodge aphids by spraying your plants with a forceful stream of water every day or two.
Plan Ahead For Temperature Drops
Be prepared for temperature drops. If you want to keep growing your Mums as perennials, plant them in your garden as soon as you get them, don’t wait until right before a frost. The more time they have to get acclimated to a new location, the better chance they have of establishing some durable roots.
Pinch off spent blooms but wait until spring before pruning stems. Have a plan how you will protect your plants and gather necessary supplies, such as mulch, before the first expected frost date.
Protect Them From Frost
If you are growing Mums in small pots, they will likely be killed by the first frost. If you want to keep your potted plants growing a little longer, you can move them to a dark and cool location, such as a protected shed or garage, where the temperature will remain above freezing. Outdoor plants can be protected from a light frost simply by draping a sheet, light towel, or “floating row cover” over your plants.
When the daytime temperatures are above freezing, you can move your pots back outside again and remove protective covers. This is a useful way to extend your potted-plant blooms a bit longer.
If you have potted plants and want to try to save them until the following spring, don’t let them freeze. You can store them in a cool and dark location for the entire winter, just be sure to keep the soil a little moist and don’t let them completely dry out. As long as the roots don’t freeze, you have a chance to overwinter your Mums in this way.
If you are growing your plants in the ground and want to overwinter them, add a heavy layer of mulch around your plants before the first expected frost. Mums have shallow roots which must be protected from freezing.
As long as the roots don’t freeze, your Mums have a chance to survive until the following year. The earlier in the season you planted them in the ground, the better chance they have, because the roots will have had more time to grow and become established.
In the spring, after danger of frost, remove some of the mulch so there is just a thin layer of mulch around the plants. This will signal to your plant that it’s time to start growing again. You can also prune any scraggly or dead branches at this time so the plant will develop fresh green growth. As long as the roots survived the winter, your plant should start to re-grow in the spring.
Mums are a gardener’s delight. They are easy to care for and provide an abundance of long-lasting fall blooms. Despite what you’ve experienced in the past, with proper care, mums can bloom long into the winter time and even future seasons. Regardless of whether you want to grow your Mums for one fall blooming season, or keep them for years to come, remember these tips for healthy, happy Mums.