Chrysanthemums: When To Plant Garden Mums
I was so excited last week when I bought plants for my fall vegetable garden because I picked up 3 pots of chrysanthemums to plant in the front flower bed. I have often used mums to decorate my yard in the fall but now that we live in the country I just haven’t felt the need to decorate. Until this year!
I looked at the planting instructions on the tag and the first thing that stood out to me was the watering instructions. It says keep moist for the first year, 2x per week after. I have planted mums in the past but they either died or came back puny. So in the interest of trying to do things the correct way I decided to do a little research.
It turns out that you aren’t supposed to plant mums in the fall!
Plant Mums In The Spring
Then WHY are there so many of them available in the fall? The answer to that question is easy. Because the fall is when they bloom and put on a show. They begin to bud when the nights last about 10 hours. They will then produce blooms about 6 weeks later. Once the plant has bloomed it is at its peak and will begin to slowly decline from there. Therefore you should choose plants at the store that have not bloomed so that your mums will last longer.
Mums have shallow root systems. When they are planted in the fall those roots don’t have time to grow. Mums run the risk of frost heave during the winter’s freeze-thaw cycle. They will be pushed right up out of the ground if they don’t have time to root themselves in. By planting mums in the spring you give the plant plenty of time to establish roots.
There are 2 types of chrysanthemum varieties, the hardy mum (garden mum) and the florist mum (cutting mum). If you are buying your mums for fall decoration on your porch or even inside, either variety is a good choice. You can treat them as an annual and throw the plants away when they die. However, if you want to plant your mums in the ground you will need to choose the hardy variety and follow a few simple rules to keep them coming back year after year.
Tips For Keeping Mums Alive Through Winter
- Plant chrysanthemums in the spring. This gives the roots time to grow deep and get established before winter.
- If you must plant them in the fall do so as soon as they become available. August at the latest and only in zones 5+.
- In colder climates, you may consider potting your plants after the first frost and storing them inside for the winter.
- Mulch around the roots and add an extra layer when the ground freezes.
- Do not remove the dead stems until spring.
Caring For Mums
Water – Keep your mums well watered. Because the roots are shallow you will need to water them more during periods of dry hot conditions. Water through the fall so that they can store up the energy to survive the winter.
Sun – Mums need to be planted in full sun. They thrive with 6+ hours of direct sun per day.
Soil – Make sure that your soil drains well so that your mums do not rot. You should add compost to the soil before planting as well as adding a top dressing after planting. Fertilize monthly during the growing season.
Mulch – Chopped leaves or shredded mulch add a layer of protection during the winter while also adding nutrients to the plant when the mulch breaks down.
If you live in zones 1-4 you will want to bring your plants inside for the winter. Dig up as much of the root system as you can and put your mums in pots. Store them in a dark shed or basement where the temperature is 32 to 50 degrees. This will allow you mums to go dormant and rest during the winter. Make sure that you continue to water your mums once a week. You will need to keep the soil damp in order to keep the plant alive.
So What Did I Do With My Mums?
I have to say that I was a little relieved when I realized that I had been planting my mums at the wrong time. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a green thumb after all.
I planted my mums in planters that I plan to move into our storage building after the first frost. The building stays dark and the temperature is low enough to keep them dormant. My biggest obstacle is going to be remembering to water them once a week. I keep my mealworm farm in the building so I am planning to create a schedule where I can check on my mums and mealworms at the same time.
I would love to see a picture of your fall decorations using mums or planted mums that you have kept alive through the years. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org