Garden Mums Everything You Need to Know
Looking for ways to keep your garden mums alive? It might not be you! Wait until you see how to get the most out of your chrysanthemums.
Nothing says fall quite like garden mums.
They are bright, beautiful and instantly give the fall feels.
But mums flowers frustrate so many home decor and gardening enthusiasts.
They don’t last long, they dry out, and some don’t return.
To be successful with garden mums, is to change one’s perspective about garden mums.
Here’s what you need to know.
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It’s a Matter of Perspective
I love mums flowers, I really do.
They have their place in the fall garden.
But I’m not into the level of care garden mums need to thrive for the limited time that they bloom.
Since adjusting my perspective, I accept the garden mums plant for what they are, the growing conditions that I have, the level of care I can manage, and use them accordingly.
How to Think Differently About Garden Mums
It’s important to keep in mind that the mums we purchase in fall are specifically grown to bloom for fall.
They only bloom about 4-6 weeks.
And while they are considered perennial, garden mums are not the best plant for that purpose.
I consider myself an avid gardener with 20+ years of gardening experience and I plant them in the ground yearly.
Not because I want them to come back per se, but because I like how they look in my garden.
Plus, they dry out a little less quickly in the ground versus a container.
What I’ve learned through the years is that only a handful out of probably hundreds have actually grown back and did ok.
So, my expectation for a beautiful perennial return is extremely low.
Are Mums Annual or Perennial?
Are garden mums perennial or annual?
To me, mums plants are a seasonal fall garden flower that will be short-lived and I treat them as such.
I consider them like I do a poinsettia – it’s more of a holiday plant than it is a good garden plant.
Do your mums flowers dry out or fail to thrive for long on your porch or in your garden?
If you are someone who has tried planting mums and they didn’t return as they did for your mom, your friend, or whoever, don’t beat yourself up over it.
They are not easy to care for and they require a lot of attention.
It’s the plant – it’s not you, which is why we should adjust our perspectives on this pretty fall flower.
Do Garden Mums Come Back?
While I consider them to be finicky, the mums plant can return and many have done it successfully.
For me, because they are so finicky, I don’t rely on them returning each year.
And instead, look at it as a bonus when they do.
If they survive the winter, you’ll notice new growth around the base of the plant in early spring.
And if you are lucky enough to have them return, cut them back halfway around July 4 to keep them from getting leggy and retain their mounding shape.
What is the Difference Between Garden Mums and Hardy Mums?
The difference is…there is no difference.
Garden mums are hardy mums but the garden nurseries stopped calling them hardy mums.
When to Buy Mums Flowers
For the last few weeks, I’ve been mentioning in my Instagram stories that it is too early to purchase them.
I know the stores have had them out for a while and it has been super tempting to get them.
And I’ve been tempted to pick them up too.
But August and early September are way too early to buy garden mums.
They do not do well in summer heat and they only bloom for about 4-6 weeks.
Buy Garden Mums with Intention
That said, it’s important to consider how you intend to use them because mums work out best when purchased with intention.
Are you buying them for a party the next day?
Do you have an event that you are decorating for that’s a week or so out?
Or is it just an impulse purchase?
If you purchase them in late August through early September on impulse, they won’t last well into October.
I’m not telling you not to get them if you really want them.
But, if you want them to last through October, either plan on replacing them or hold off getting them for a few more weeks.
Look at the Weather
Because I don’t want to replace mums, I hold off getting mine until mid-late September-ish depending on the weather.
If New Jersey is experiencing hot weather with no rain, I will not buy them until these conditions generally pass.
So the first thing I do before purchasing them is look at the weather.
The only time I really deviate from that is if I’m hosting a party or decorating earlier for some specific reason.
If that’s the case, I will pick up Mums earlier and either not care when they die or will replace them if I am so inclined.
Note: if you buy them early, you have to keep them well-hydrated! (see below)
Choosing the Right Mums Plant
Knowing that their bloom time only lasts 4-6 weeks, choose mums based on your intentions.
For example, if you are hosting a party say, tomorrow, you may want to purchase
Mums plants that are full of blooms because they look really good right now.
But, it’s important to remember, that since you are purchasing them full of blooms, they won’t last as long and will not rebloom.
When garden mums are done, they are done.
If you are hosting an event like a week or more from now, I’d choose plants that have a good mix of blooms as well as buds.
And be sure to water them daily!
But, if you are purchasing them just for seasonal decor, I’d pick the one that has more buds than blooms because the plant will last much longer.
Again, keep them well-hydrated daily so they do not dry out before they get a chance to bloom.
How to Take Care of Mums
Mums flowers need a lot of attention.
And if you read my blogs, you know that I like very easy-care, low-maintenance plants.
For me, garden mums are not those plants.
I still buy them every year because I like the festive vibe they add, but I consider them very fussy to care for!
These plants are not very resilient once they get stressed.
So it’s very important to make sure they get watered every day, particularly when it’s hot.
If it is still really hot out, either hold off buying them or keep them shaded so they don’t dry out as quickly.
This is why I said earlier to look at the weather before you buy them because rain is a good thing!
If it’s super hot out and there’s no rain – consider how much watering you want to do.
I wait until the temps cool off so they are a little less work for me.
If you plan to keep them under a covered porch or something similar, plan on watering them daily.
How to Water Mums
To avoid a shallow watering, be sure to water each plant well.
Give a good 10-15 full seconds on each plant.
Since Mums have a shallow root system, it’s important to keep an eye on how dry the soil is because the plant can dry out quickly.
Learn how to know when the right time to water and test for dryness is with this tip.
Deadheading spent flowers keeps the plant looking neat and helps it last a little longer.
Learn the basics of deadheading flowers with these tips.
For more information on Mums and their care see Penn State Extention’s article on Chrysanthemums as well as Clemson Extension’s article on Mums.
What Do You Think?
While garden mums are not my favorite flower, I do love them and enjoy them every year.
When I see them, I want to buy and incorporate them with my fall decor.
I’ve learned, however, that to feel good about having them, I needed to adjust my expectations.
Changing that perspective helped me understand the plant better, have greater success with it, and feel better about my perceived failures with them.
There are so many different plant options out there that I think are better and provide more bang for the buck.
To learn more, check out Best Plants for the Fall Garden.
More Fall Garden Inspiration
- 17 Simple Fall Home and Garden Ideas
- Fall Garden – What to Plant?
- How to Plant Fall Flowers in a Thrift Store Find
- The Best Fall Garden Flowers
- 9 Gorgeous Fall Porch Decorating Ideas
- Fall Garden Tip That Will Save You Money
- Dividing and Transplanting in the Fall Garden
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