How to Care for Mums: You Have Questions? We’ve Got Answers

how to care for mums
iStock/zorani

Love cheerful chrysanthemums, with their autumnal hues, hardy character, and abundance of blooms? But not sure how to care for mums?  Easily the showoff superstars of a fall garden, these robust babes will produce blooms (and bunches of them) for weeks, even in finicky weather.

And for those among us who prefer less labor-intensive gardening, all you need to plant these flowers are a few containers. Pop the plants in terracotta pots or in window boxes to add easy seasonal flair to your windows, porches, and decks. In true fall style, mum varieties with burnt amber, golden yellow or deep burgundy blooms work perfectly with a display of pumpkins and gourds.

While resilient, these happy blossoms still need a bit of  TLC. You have questions. Here are answers:

1. Do mums grow back every year?

Yes, with some care and attention they will overwinter and grow back. If you want your mums to return next year then buy and plant them ASAP (during the spring or summer is ideal). By planting them early you allow a strong root system to develop.

Give your mums a hair cut by pinching off blooms when they are done. Cut back the plant at the end of the season and apply a few inches of mulch.

2. Where should I plant mums?

Your mums will appreciate a sunny spot with at least four to six hours of sunlight per day.

3. How should I prep my soil for mums?

Drainage, drainage, drainage. Mums will not grow well in soil that does not drain well.

Not sure if your soil drains well? Test it. Dig the hole that you want to place your mum plant in. Fill the hole with water and watch the water drain out. Does it drain out in a few minutes or do you have time to grab a latte, walk the dog, and check email before it drains? If your situation is the latter then your soil drains poorly and your mums won’t fare well there.

4. Should I use fertilizer?

Yes, your mums will appreciate fertilizer. The first applications of fertilizer will happen at the nursery before you buy them. Once in your care you have a choice of granular or liquid fertilizer.

According to GardeningKnowHow.com, “Some gardeners use a granular application for fertilizing mums. These may be formulated with a 6-2-4 or 4-2-3 analysis. The rate should be 1 pound per 100 square feet of garden bed. Soluble fertilizers are also useful. They are mixed to the manufacturer’s instructions with water and applied to the root zone of the plant. For this method of feeding, use a 20-20-20 or 15-15-15 balanced nutrient solution.”

Personally, I don’t stress too much about fertilizing my mums. Approximately every month or so that they are in bloom I sprinkle an inch of compost around each plant’s base.

5. How can I deal with pests?

Thankfully, insects are not a great concern with mums. Yes, you might spy tiny pests such as mites and thrips. Aphids, earwigs, leaf miners, slugs and snails may also feast on your mums, but they are rare. An application of eco-friendly insecticidal spray will probably eradicate these pests.

The greater threat to mums is mold. The fall is often a wet season in many parts of the country, and this damp weather encourages mold growth. How to alleviate mold? Proper drainage will help a lot (see above).

6. Can mums survive frost?

Not exactly. But let me explain: After the first frost, your mums will look like they are dead because the green foliage will look wilted and the colorful blooms will shrivel and lose color. Although the plant is not as attractive as it was before the frost, it is not dead.

The root system of the plant is still alive and can overwinter and bloom next year. (See question 1 above)

7. How much water do mums need?

Your mum plants need to be kept moist. During the summer think of watering your mums as often as your lawn or vegetable garden–at least one inch of water per week. Adjust your watering schedule according to your local weather pattern; if conditions are sunny and dry, water more frequently, and if you’ve had a lot of rain then don’t supplement by watering.

A finger test will tell you whether your mums need water. Stick your finger in the mum’s soil. If it feels dry then water; if it is moist then wait a day or two to water.

how to care for mums

8. How can I keep mums blooming?

While at your local nursery choose plants that have buds that have not yet bloomed, as pictured above. Your mums enjoy up to six hours of sunlight per day, but if that sun is all harsh direct sunlight, it may negatively affect blooms. Indirect sunlight may serve your blooms best. Also, when watering be careful to water the soil and not the flowers.

9. How should I care for mums in pots?

Mums do well in pots and therefore they’re a great option for apartment dwellers. While at the nursery be sure to choose plants that are not at all wilted. A wilted plant is a plant that hasn’t had enough water and that is deadly for mums. Once home, consider repotting the plant in a slightly larger pot and amending soil with compost.

Like other plants grown in containers, your mum in a pot is going to require more water than those planted in the ground. Plan to water mums in containers daily.

10. When should I divide mums?

Divide mums in the spring. Allow the plant to grow to a truly mature size before dividing. This means that you will divide a healthy plant every two to three years.

Many mum varieties to choose from:

Mums come in many varieties so you can make your fall garden stand out from others in your neighborhood.

how to care for mums

I’m partial to spider mums, pictured above, because of their long, curled petals that look like elegant spider legs. Look specifically for the Anastasia, Cremon, and Mocha varieties.

how to care for mums
iStock/Pleio

The name pompom mum, pictured above, says it all. This variety of mum offers small, pompom-like, blooms. The names of varieties of pompom mums are delightfully evocative; look for Moonbeam, Pixie, and Small Wonder.

how to care for mums
iStock/Cassandra Tiensivu

Spoon mums, pictured above, are another favorite as their distinctive petals looks like spoons (or, maybe straws).

how to care for mums

You guessed it, the anemone mum, pictured above, bears a striking resemblance to a sea anemone. It has a center group of blooms with longer petals growing from that center.

Have you successfully grown mums? Share your tips and tricks on our Facebook page or Tweet at us @organicauthorit.

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