Mums are the quintessential fall flower. They are beautiful hearty plants with showy blooms that can be planted outside or brought inside as fall decor. Here is a guidebook with everything you need to know about caring for mums and keeping them looking their best.
Mums are spectacular fall plants. They can be planted indoors or outside and will reward you with blooms from September until frost. They are perfect for fall decorating. Caring for mums is easy, and with only a few tips, you can keep a mum plants healthy and happy.
Mums are a big bang for your buck as they are less expensive than most bouquets of flowers. They look beautiful in pots on a front porch or back patios as well as on a kitchen countertop or in the ground lining your front walk!
Here are some helpful, tried, and true tips for caring for mums and keeping those beautiful fall blooms looking their best.
What Is A Mum?
Mums or Chrysanthemums are a bushy perennial that is part of the aster family, like their cousins, the daisy and sunflower. There are 13 varieties of mums, and they come in all kinds of colors, shades, shapes, and sizes. They can be grown in your garden or around your home as bedding plants. And they will also thrive indoors with just a little care.
Florist Mums And Garden Mums
There are two types of mums you want to be familiar with. The first type is florist mums. You typically find these mums in florist’s shops or planted in pots for occasions like Mother’s Day. Think of them as annuals or long-lasting cut flowers. They are often showy, like spider mums, but not suitable for planting outdoors.
The other variety, the ones we are focusing on today, are garden or hearty mums. These plants are perennials in zones 5 through 9. Hearty mums are known as a fall plant because their bloom time is September to frost. No other flower represents fall, as well as a mum.
I’ve been an avid mum lover and grower for decades. For me, mums and fall go together! And it would not be fall if I did not decorate with them inside.
Planting Mums Outdoors
Mums are a beautiful addition to your outdoor spaces. They tend to grow in large clumps or mounds. You will want to choose hardy mums whether you plant mum in the spring or fall or indoors or outside.
Mums can be planted outdoors in the spring after frost or in the fall before the frost.
If you are planting mums outdoors in the spring, choose a garden mum that is a bit small because its root system can become stronger when the plant does not have to feed a bigger specimen. If you are planting mums in the ground during the fall, choose a big healthy-looking plant with lots of buds on it. If you pick a mum that is in full bloom, the plant’s booming season will be shorter.
Planting Mums Indoors Or Outdoors In Containers
Mums usually come in black plastic containers. You can keep mums right in those containers if they are not too pot-bound. But put the plastic container inside another larger, more decorative container. You want to enjoy the beauty of your mum plant, so make sure the container you put them in is decorative. I know many, if not most, of us keep our decorative indoor mums in their original black containers. However, repotting them might be worth the effort since mums in their original plastic posts don’t last as long as repotted mums.
The mums we get in our area are usually planted in heavy soil from the fields where they grow. This heavy soil is not a very good choice for keeping mums healthy indoors. So I like to transplant my mums, using good quality potting soil, into a decorative container. A good potting soil offers a healthy environment for mums and ensures good drainage. Here’s how
I repot my mums… I gently squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen the soil and remove the mum. Resist the urge to remove a mum by pulling it out by the foliage. Mums have brittle foliage, and you can break off parts of the plant. Trust me, I’ve done that. Instead, gently turn the pot over and slide the mum out. If the mum is badly rootbound, soak the whole plastic pot in water until it loosens.
When the mum is removed from the pot, I gently get rid of any clumped soil from around the root ball, and if the roots are potbound, gently coax them apart. Then the mum is ready to be replanted. I’ve repotted mums for decades, and these tips work!
I then plant the mum in a container larger than the pot they came in. This will help to ensure my fall perennials will have a healthy and good start.
If you have a little extra space around your mum container, tuck items like small pumpkins, gourds, or even faux leaves into the pot. This is such a pretty fall look. However, don’t overcrowd or be rough with this plant, as the stems break easily. Gentle is best when handling mums.
A Designer Tip For Planting Mums Indoors Or Outside In Containers
If you are planting mums outdoors in containers like urns or planters, you can plant them en masse or choose other fall-loving plants to go in a container along with them. Make sure you read Designer Fall Planters Done The Easy Way. This post will show you how to have beautiful designer planters for less money and effort.
Plant Or Put Mums In A Sunny Spot
Mums love the sun! So find a sunny spot outside with at least six hours of sunlight to plant mums. If you are planting mums indoors, choose a sunny place to put them to keep them happy and healthy.
Mums can be planted indoors or outside and will reward you with blooms from September until frost. They are the quintessential fall flower.
Mums are thirsty plants. They do not, I repeat, do not like to be dry. Mums get dry surprisingly quickly! However, they also do not like to sit in wet soil, like most other plants.
If you plant mums in the ground, water them in well and give them a little water every day (without making them waterlogged) until they are established.
If you have mums that you have repotted, check the soil daily. Stick your finger into the soil to your second knuckle, and if it feels dry, give your mum a drink. Always water from the bottom of the plant directly into the soil so the leaves and the flowers do not get wet. This will keep them from getting things like mold.
If the foliage of your mum starts to droop or wilt, immediately give your plant a big drink of water. Droopy leaves are a sign of a stressed plant no matter where they are planted.
Mums that are kept in their plastic containers tend to dry out very quickly. Even if the soil seems damp, the roots on the side of the plants can be dry. To check if your plant needs watering, you can pick up the plastic container, and if it feels light, give it a good soaking.
Another thing I did for years before I transplanted all my indoor mums was to submerge the pot the mums came in, in my utility sink filled with water for half an hour to give the mums a good soaking.
As much as mums like to be watered, they do not like to stand in water. So make sure any pot you put them in has good drainage.
I break this rule a bit because I have a couple of beautiful urns that don’t have holes to drain out the excess water. In my outdoor urns without drainage, I use small plastic pots my summer annuals come in and line the bottom of the urns with them. You can also use plastic bottles, sticks and twigs, rocks, and more. The idea is to have an area at the bottom of a pot for the excess water to drain so the roots of a mum do not have wet feet.
When I plant mums inside, I don’t always provide drainage. This might make them not last as long. But they are easy to replace.
Deadheading is the process of removing, by pinching off or cutting, anything that is not healthy on a plant. Deadhead leaves that are old, dead stems, and dead blooms. This will ensure your mums look their best and are healthy. Deadheading also help new flower to form and bloom.
More Helpful Tips For Mums Planted In The Ground
Here are a few more tips that will help your in-ground mums thrive!
Inground, established mums need to be pruned. If buds are showing on a plant before July 4th, you will need to cut or pinch the plant back so they are four to six inches from the ground. Make sure to cut the flower buds completely off. This helps the plant branch out and become bigger and fuller because mums tend to get spindly and leggy if left to grow on their own. Pruning also allows mums to produce more buds and flowers for fall blooming.
Pruning always hurts my heart a little. It’s hard to cut off those little buds! However, it is very good for your plant. I always remember to cut the plant back around the 4th of July.
When mums dies in the winter, do not break or cut off the dead branches. These dead branches help to protect the mum’s crown. You can remove any dead leaves or flowers. Leave the dead skeleton of the mums on and mulch around them. This will help protect garden mums as they overwinter in the ground. When new growth starts to peek out of the soil in early spring, you can carefully break off the old stems and compost them.
It’s a good idea to much around outdoor mums that are in the ground. Mums have short root systems and need to be protected from winter conditions like hard frosts and dryness. Mulching helps a plant to stay healthy. Add about two inches of mulch around your mums.
Mums planted in pots indoors or outside do not need to be fertilized. Mums planted in the ground do best if given nutrients to help them grow and stay healthy. No matter when you plant them, feed them with a water-soluble fertilizer from early spring through July. This will help these heavy feeders to grow strong.
Inground mums can be divided when the center of the plant begins to look thin, about every three to four years. You will notice the center looks woody, and the plant will begin to have a crown effect with healthy plants growing around the outside of the center. This is because the healthy roots are on the outside of the plant.
Dig up your inground mums in early spring when new shoots begin to show. Divide them and replant them in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Make sure to water them in well.
How To Care For Cut Mums
Since we are talking about mums, let’s talk about cut mums. They are easy to find in your local grocery store. Cut mums make great arrangements in the fall and add organic fall beauty to our homes. Mums are one of the longest-lasting cut flowers, and they will stay fresh with just a little care.
Here are a few important things to do to keep cut mums looking their best…
- Strip flowers off each mum stem below the water level in the vase.
- Change the water every other day.
- Keep mums in a cool place away from sunlight once they are cut.
Are Mums Pet Friendly
According to the ASPCA, mums are considered toxic to dogs, cats and horses. So keep this in mind if you want to bring mums into your home if you have pets.
Deer do eat mums and can smell them from a great distance. These plants are not their favorite food but a deer that is very hungry will make a meal of mums planted around your home.
Click For More Fall Inspiration
I hope you will find a space in your home for these quintessential fall plants now you know these simple tips.
What is your favorite color, mum? Tell us in the comments!