One of the most frequent questions we get asked in the fall is how to care for and extend the blooms of hardy mums! Hardy Mums, Chrysanthemums, or Fall Mums are everywhere in the fall: garden centers, grocery stores, and seemingly everyone in the neighborhood’s front porch. These vibrant autumn bloomers are easy to care for and come in a ton of different colors and sizes, making them a great choice for any garden or fall planter project.
Many people just buy a potted mum in the fall and toss it away after its blooms are finished, but with a little care and know-how, you can overwinter mums and even propagate them, so that mum you bought in the fall can keep brightening your garden year after year. Read on to find out how to choose, plant, overwinter, propagate, and care for hardy mums.
Why Grow Hardy Mums?
Hardy mums are drought-resistant, don’t generally get a lot of diseases or attract pests, and are very low maintenance. Additionally, this late-season bloomer comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes so it will look at home in any style of garden. Mums can be planted in containers or in the ground, and take well to propagation and creative planter projects like pumpkin planters.
Buying Mums in the Fall
Many garden centers are selling hardy mums for fall, as they are such a great way to add some vibrant color to the autumn garden. It can be tempting to buy a plant that is already bursting with gorgeous jewel-toned flowers, but try to pick one that is not in full bloom yet and instead has a lot of buds and lush green foliage that does not look at all wilted.
Mums that are already covered in open flowers may be at or past their peak blooming time and will not last much longer, while plants that are just at the budding stage will give you a much longer display.
Planting Mums in the Garden
If you wish to transplant your hardy mums from a container to your garden, be sure to do it before the first frost of the season. Make sure you plant them in a location that gets about six hours of sun per day and has well-draining soil. Do not fertilize mums in the fall as this can negatively affect blooming.
Watering Hardy Mums
Water new transplants thoroughly and often, never letting them dry out completely. Once established, you can reduce watering to once a week. Browning bottom leaves and dropping flowers are signs that you are not watering enough.
Overwintering Hardy Mums
You can overwinter hardy mums, but in order to do so they need sufficient time to set their roots and become established in the garden. This means that your best bet is planting them in the spring so that by the time winter rolls around they are ready to handle it.
However, if you bought and planted your mums in the fall, you can still overwinter them as long as they went into the ground before the first frost—they will just need a little extra care. Don’t prune fall-planted mums. The wilted brown foliage will act as protection from the harsh winter cold. After the first frost, mulch mums generously. A thick layer of leaves covering them will do wonders for winter protection.
If your mums are in pots, keep them there over the winter. You can move the potted mums to a protected spot such as beneath an evergreen tree with low sheltering branches, by the side of a building, or inside a garden shed. This will shield them from the cold and help them survive the winter.
Overwintering will only work with hardy mums. Florist mums make a lovely annual, but will not come back year after year.
Spring Care for Fall Mums
If you overwintered your fall mums, cut back the old stems as soon as you see them beginning to re-grow in the spring. To encourage your mums to bloom again in the fall, you will need to “pinch” them. This means that once the plant has grown to about five inches in height, you should cut one to two inches of new growth from each shoot. After the plant grows another four to five inches, repeat the process.
Keep doing this until mid-July for bushy mums that bloom like crazy in the fall. If you do not pinch back your mums, they will bloom in mid-summer and will not bloom again in the fall.
Mums take very well to propagation. To get even more mums, take a cutting of new growth and remove the bottom leaves. Plant the cutting into a small pot filled with good quality, well-draining soil. To speed up the rooting process, dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone before planting it in the soil. Once the plant has taken root and is growing healthily you can transplant it to a larger container or to the garden.
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