When is the Best Time to Plant Fall Mums?

Are you getting ready for your fall garden? It’s time to start thinking about hay bales, scarecrows, and pumpkins. And don’t forget to add some fall-blooming mums to brighten your landscape. In this article, gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen will share some insights into the best timing for planting your fall mums.

a bushy mum plant in the garden is bursting with coral red blooms next to a small trowel.

Contents

Chrysanthemums, or mums, are one of the most popular flowering plants for the fall garden. Mums are readily available, beautiful, and hardy and provide long-lasting, late-season color to your home and garden. Great for beginners, growing mums is both easy and rewarding!

Many colorways stand out, including white, yellow, orange, brown, pink, and purple. Hundreds of cultivars exist with countless combinations of flower colors, sizes, and flower types. Their long-lasting, showy flowers are a highlight in many fall gardens and autumn-themed displays. 

Many gardeners grow mums as annuals and discard them after the first frost. You can maximize your enjoyment of these plants by keeping your mums through the winter and allowing them to return the following year and many years after for repeat blooms.

Keep reading as we dig deeper into how to plant and grow these spectacular fall flowers.

The Short Answer

The best time to plant fall mums is in the fall, at least six weeks before your average first frost. Depending on your location, you should be planting anywhere from late August through mid-October. Planting well before the first frost will allow your plants to develop some healthy roots and start establishing in the location where they will spend the winter. You can also plant mums in the spring and maintain them in your garden throughout the summer so they will be fully blooming by fall.

The Long Answer

Close-up of a gardener planting a young chrysanthemum bush in a sunny garden. Chrysanthemums form a bushy round shape with lush dark green foliage. Leaves are oval, lobed. The flowers are daisy-like, bright yellow with many thin petals. The gardener is wearing yellow gloves, blue jeans, and a burgundy T-shirt.
Understand your frost dates and plant hardy mums at suggested times for your zone.

To know when to plant fall mums, know your frost dates. Hardy mums are perennials in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.

In much of zone 5, the average first frost date is in mid-October, and in portions of zone 9, it is late November through mid-December. Everyone’s first frost date is unique to their particular region, but to give a general idea, you can use the following suggested planting times.

If you live in…  Your average first frost date is…Plant your mums by….
Zone 5October 13-21Early September
Zone 6October 17-31Early to mid-September
Zone 7October 29-November 15Mid to late September
Zone 8November 7-28Late September to mid-October
Zone 9November 25-December 13Mid to late October 

Give your mums at least six weeks to adjust to their new location before the first frost. Mums become widely available in the fall. If you buy your plants late in the season, it may not be too late to plant them.

To grow them in a container other than the one they came in, transplant them into a container, raised bed, or garden plot as soon as possible. There’s still a good chance they’ll survive the winter, especially in milder climate zones.

If you purchase mums in the spring, you can transplant them immediately. This is an excellent season for establishing perennial flowers in your garden. Summer transplants may be more challenging because of the intense heat and sunlight that creates unnecessary stress for your plants.

Types of Mums

Close-up of blooming chrysanthemums in a sunny garden. The plant forms upright stems with lush green foliage. The leaves are oval, lobed, smooth. the flowers are medium, double, pompon-shaped, consist of bright pink oval petals.
Mums, originating from Asia, are versatile garden plants with numerous species and cultivars.

Mums are fast-growing, clump-forming plants that are members of the aster family. They originated in Asia and have become widespread and extremely popular garden plants. Over 20 species of Chrysanthemum and hundreds of different cultivars are available for the adventurous gardener. These are most commonly sold in the autumn months near their peak bloom season. 

Some mums will stay very small and compact, never growing more than 12 inches tall. Others will grow up to 3 or 4 feet tall or may have more sprawling tendencies. Most garden mums you encounter will be winter hardy and can be grown as perennials in zones 5 through 9

They will bloom anywhere from mid-summer through the first frost, depending on the variety and how you manage them.

One nice thing about mums is that they don’t grow aggressively or take over your flower garden. Some hardy chrysanthemum varieties will slowly spread over time, but the most popular garden mums sold in the autumn will stay quite compact.

Mum cultivars are often identified by their colors and flower type, such as spider, pompon, quill, anemone, or single blooms. The different species of chrysanthemum have different places of origin, but most plants available to consumers are cultivars.

Growing Conditions

Light

Close-up of blooming chrysanthemums in a garden under full sun. Chrysanthemum leaves are alternate, that is, they grow along the stem in an alternating pattern. The leaves are small, oval, lobed, dark green. Terry chrysanthemum flowers consist of many rows of pink petals. They have a simple and elegant appearance.
Mums need 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal performance.

Mums will perform best in full sun, with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. They will tolerate partial shade but won’t stay as compact or bloom as well as those grown in full sun.

Soil

Close-up of a yellow-gloved gardener's hand spreading soil with a shovel over a freshly planted chrysanthemum plant. Chrysanthemums produce lush dark green lobed foliage and bright yellow double flowers in the middle.
Use nutrient-rich, well-drained soil and enhance with organic compost at planting.

The soil should be nutrient-rich and well-drained. Add some organic compost at planting time to help enrich the soil and get your plants off to a great start.

If you are growing mums in a container or raised bed, use a high-quality potting mix or raised bed garden soil. This should be loose, well-drained, and high in organic matter.

Water

Close-up of watering flowering chrysanthemum plants from a green plastic watering can. Chrysanthemums form beautiful pompon-shaped double flowers of a bright orange-fiery hue. The leaves are bright green, small, alternate, with deep lobes.
Maintain steady soil moisture, not overly wet.

Mums prefer consistent soil moisture so the roots stay moist but not wet or soggy. Give your plants about 1 to 2 inches of water each week. If you’re growing them in pots, check them daily during the warmest days to ensure they stay moist. Potted mums dry out very quickly.

How to Plant Mums

Close-up of female hands in white gloves planting a chrysanthemum bush in a garden. Nearby are several black pots of chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums are herbaceous flowering plants with lush, lobed dark green foliage. The flowers are medium, pompon-shaped, double, bright red.
Transplant potted chrysanthemums in your garden on a cool, overcast day, providing good air circulation.

It’s simple to plant fall mums in your home garden. Assuming you bought potted nursery-grown plants, you need to transplant these into your garden.

Do your transplanting on a cool, overcast day to help minimize stress on the plant. Most varieties of mums should be planted 18 to 36 inches apart, allowing plenty of space and good air circulation between plants.

Use a garden spade or small trowel to prepare a hole slightly larger than the pot your plant is currently growing in. Use this opportunity to add some organic compost to the soil, giving it a nutritious boost for your plant.

Carefully remove your mum from its pot and transfer it into the hole. Refill the gaps around the edges with soil and gently tamp it down. Give your newly transplanted mums a big drink of water to help them settle into their new location. 

Mulch

Close-up of blooming white and red chrysanthemums in a garden with straw mulched soil. The plant forms upright stems and is covered with large lobed dark green leaves. The flowers are large, pompon-shaped, consisting of narrow, slightly elongated petals in several layers around yellowish-green centers.
For healthy mums, keep shallow roots damp and add mulch to retain soil moisture.

Mums have a shallow root system and like their roots to be kept moist. Use any organic, biodegradable mulch that helps protect the roots, retains moisture, and enriches the soil as it breaks down. Use compost, peat, or leaf mulch for the best results.

In the winter, add a 4 to 6-inch layer of mulch around your plants to help protect them from the cold and insulate the roots from harsh temperature changes. In the spring, you’ll want to remove some of the mulch and keep a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch around your plants.

Annual Maintenance

Fertilizer

Close-up of blooming bright dark pink chrysanthemums in the garden. Plants have large double flowers, which consist of many rows of long thin oval petals, densely packed. The leaves are dark green, alternate, lobed, have depressions or divisions along the edges.
As new leaves emerge, apply general-purpose fertilizer in spring to promote healthy root growth.

Add some general-purpose fertilizer each spring when your mums are beginning to grow new leaves. This helps them develop a healthier root system and prepare for an abundant fall bloom.

Pruning

Close-up of woman's hands in orange gloves pruning flowering chrysanthemum plants with blue secateurs in a sunny garden. Chrysanthemums have upright stems with dark green oval lobed leaves. The flowers are large, double, daisy-like, with narrow oval petals.
Deadhead mums to encourage new blooms.

When should you prune your fall mums? There are two times: fall deadheading and winter pruning. Use sharp, clean garden pruners to deadhead spent flowers in the fall to keep your plants looking their best. This removes the dead flowerheads and encourages your plant to produce more flower buds

Do not prune your plant immediately after the first frost. Allow it to overwinter without pruning it first. In late winter or early spring before new leaf buds form, prune your plants low to encourage fresh, dense new growth in the spring.

Pinching

Close-up of a woman's hands picking off white chrysanthemum flowers in a sunny garden. Chrysanthemums produce medium daisy-like flowers with several rows of white petals surrounding yellow centers.
To enhance mums’ growth and fall bloom, pinch off early flower buds until mid-July.

Pinching is a common technique recommended for mums. Pinch off early flower buds until early to mid-July. This helps your plants develop more branches and become fuller.

It also encourages them to wait until fall to flower, and you will have a massive fall blooming season. Without pinching off the early flower buds, your plants will produce fewer flowers and longer flowerless stems. 

Weeding

Top view, close-up of female hands in white gloves weeding the soil around chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums produce a bushy form of upright stems with oval lobed dark green leaves. The flowers are small, daisy-like, semi-double, consisting of several rows of bright red thin petals surrounding yellow centers.
Prevent competition by maintaining a weed-free garden to ensure optimal growing conditions for your mums.

Mums don’t want to compete with weeds for light, water, or space. Keep your flower garden weeded to reduce weedy competition and provide your special flowering plants with the best growing conditions possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I grow mums in a container or raised bed?

Yes, absolutely! Mums look great in containers and are an ideal plant for raised bed gardening. They can be grown in any sunny location with moist soil and good soil drainage. If you are transplanting mums into a decorative gardening container, check first to make sure your container has good drainage holes. If not, you’ll want to create drainage holes before planting. Mums do not like to sit in soggy soil.

You could dedicate an entire raised bed to mums, or mix them with some other complimentary flowers like cosmos, or beautiful fall vegetables like blue kale, to add some interesting variety. Just be sure to keep the soil moist, especially if you are growing your mums in smaller pots or containers because their roots will dry more quickly in smaller containers.

What if I didn’t plant my mum on time – do I have to throw it out?

There’s always a hope that you can save a mum through the winter, even if you didn’t plant it before the first frost. Consider overwintering a potted mum in a cool, dark location like a garage. If you are overwintering it in a pot, don’t let it freeze, but keep it cool so the plant will stay dormant. You’ll also want to keep the soil very slightly moist so it doesn’t dry out completely. In the early spring, you can prune it to a few inches tall and transplant it outside in your garden and watch it grow.

You can still try planting it outside, even after the frost. Cover it with a thick 4 to 6-inch layer of mulch. In early spring, before new growth starts, prune your mums to a few inches tall, remove a couple of inches of the thick mulch and with any luck, your plant will have survived the winter. As the weather warms, you should see some fresh new leaf buds starting to grow.

Are mums good for pollinators?

That depends a lot on the cultivar you have. Some of the showiest varieties of mums do not attract any pollinators because the flowers are so complex that insects can’t reach the pollen. A simple flowered variety, such as Hillside Sheffield Pink, has showy flowers and the most easily accessible pollen that will attract a great number of pollinators.

Final Thoughts

If you love cheerful colors, consider buying and planting fall mums for your yard. While mums are excellent seasonal potted plants, growing these beauties in your yard year-round is more rewarding. Plant fall mums in the late summer or early fall to enjoy them in your yard this season and for many years. With a small amount of annual maintenance, you can have reliable repeat bloomers to add life and color to your landscape throughout the growing season.

SHARE THIS POST
A wooden planter box displays a charming arrangement of yellow flowers with their delicate petals catching the sunlight's warm embrace. The sight of these blossoms in the wooden planter box brings a sense of joy to any space they adorn.

Flowers

27 Flowering Perennials for Raised Garden Beds

Have you been eyeing a new raised bed? Raised beds are a perfect vessel for perennial gardens. Most perennials will grow nicely in raised beds, while others may need more space to spread out. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will list 27 perennials that are perfect for your raised beds.

flowering plants rebloom

Flowers

27 Beautiful Flowering Plants That Will Rebloom All Season

Are you in search of flowering plants that will keep blooming all season long? There are many annuals as well as perennials that will bloom for extended periods of time or that will produce a second bloom altogether. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will share some of her favorite plants that will keep your gardens full of color all summer.

A small pod adorned with a mesmerizing waterfall, creating a tranquil oasis in nature. The gentle cascade flows into a serene pond, surrounded by a delightful assortment of plants and blooming flowers, adding a burst of colors to the landscape.

Flowers

35 Flowers For a Lush, Tropical Garden

Are you building a tropical oasis or looking for the perfect tropical flowering houseplant to add to your collection? Here, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares her favorite tropical flowering plants, perfect for the home or garden.

Several stunning Dutch irises blooming gracefully; their majestic petals standing tall amidst a sea of slender green leaves. The flowers reveal their captivating tubular shape, painted in a deep purple, accented by vibrant, sunny yellow centers.

Flowers

Are Irises Annual, Biennial, or Perennial plants?

If I plant irises in my yard this season, will they survive winter and flower again next year? How do I know if I’m planting an annual, biennial, or perennial iris? Determining whether or not your dramatic, ruffly iris blooms are a one-time thing or a regular occurrence can be a little tricky. In this article, certified master gardener Liz Jaros helps clear the air so you’ll know what to expect from this beloved garden staple in the seasons to come.

self seeding perennials

Flowers

31 Self Seeding Perennial Flowers to Grow This Season

Do you have an area of your garden that you don’t know what to do with? Have you thought of adding some self-seeding perennials to that area so you don’t have to do much? If so, gardening expert Jill Drago offers 31 self-seeding perennial options for your gardens.