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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.

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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.

Garden Mums

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.

how my cottage garden flowers grew in 2021 fall planter

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.

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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.

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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)

Garden Mums

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.

Garden Mums

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.

Garden Mums

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!

close up of whiskey barrel planter with fall garden flowers such as garden mums, celosia, pansies and millet -how my cottage garden flowers grew in 2021 fall planter

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. 

Garden Mums

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.

What You Need to Know About Garden Mums

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.

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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.

Garden 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.

9 ways to prepare the garden for winter

More Fall Garden Inspiration

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Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed

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cottage garden in front of a garden shed with fall flowers including garden mums, sedum autumn joy and a wood picket fence.
Everything You Need to Know About Garden Mums

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  1. I have not purchased mums in a long time. But, your gorgeous photos have inspired me. I am going to wait until it cools off a little more and then go for it!

  2. Stacy,
    I’m loving all your gardening tips. I hope I can utilize your tips as we start to actually use the greenhouse this fall and next spring.

  3. Pingback: Saturday Shares - Cottage On Bunker Hill
  4. You are right…had a garden center owner tell me to think of them as a fall annual not a lot of chance of them coming back. Garden centers start selling them really early here too. Buy them now, buy them later, buy them twice!

    1. I’ve had minimal success with them – they just aren’t worth the time and effort as a perennial. There are SO many better plants out there for that. xo

  5. Good Morning Stacy – Your wreath and everything is so beautiful. The millet stands tall and gives the decor power. Just love it. Yes, I know about mums. For an event each year I had to buy about 60 mums and had them delivered the day before the event. The stems snap so have to be careful handling them. I always offer to give them to our grounds people to plant but they refuse. I understand. Never been a favorite of them, but you are right, they give great color.

    I just love your garden and your enthusiasm. Always a cheerful email.
    Have a wonderful week.

  6. I love to bring a mum indoors, pop it in a basket, and put it on my kitchen table. They will last 4-6 weeks. A few days ago I bought a red one because they sell out so fast in my town. Sometimes nobody I know snagged one. I pitch them when they’re done. I’ve never even tried planting them.

  7. I love fall! Mums mean Fall to me. I’m that person that gets to August and I’m ready to decorate. Mums are one of the first things that I buy. And then they drive me nuts because they don’t last.
    You are so smart! I should wait to get them.

    But, I’m going to jump out of bed, get some clothes on and go get some mums.

    Hugs to you.

  8. I agree with everything you said!! Mums are fussy. I saved 1 out of 6. So yes seasonal. Years ago they always came back, beautiful yellow around my house.
    In new Jersey. Still in NJ but cant overwinter them