Looking for ways to keep your chrysanthemums alive this fall? Learn how to grow garden mums successfully with these simple tips.

Nothing says fall quite like garden mums, am I right? They are bright, beautiful and instantly give the fall feels.

But mums flowers frustrate so many home decor and gardening enthusiasts because they don’t last long, they dry out, and some don’t return.

To be successful with them is to change one’s perspective on growing chrysanthemums.

Here’s what you need to know.

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About Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums are really pretty fall garden flowers. You’ll see them sold everywhere from nurseries and big box stores to markets and florists.

There are lots of different garden mum varieties that come in a bunch of options for color, height, flower size, shape, and bloom time. The majority of mum varieties are winter hardy in Zones 5 through 9. However, there are some that can handle lower zones.

Chrysanthemums produce the most flowers and look their best when they get 6-8 hours of sun per day with lots of water and fertilization.

As a perennial, they establish best when planted in spring so their roots have plenty of time to develop. However, you can plant them any time as long as you give them about 6 weeks before extremely cold or hot weather arrives.

Plant chrysanthemums in well-draining soil in a hole at least twice the root ball size and mix organic matter like compost and leaf mold.

While I generally recommend focusing more on soil quality, chrysanthemums thrive with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. It’s important to fertilize garden mums until they are just about to bloom. But once the buds are formed, stop fertilizing and let the plant do its thing.

Chrysanthemums are prone to problems with aphids and powdery mildew. So keep plants dry by watering from the base whenever possible and avoid overhead watering. Consider companion planting ideas to naturally draw aphids away from your garden mums.

As plants grow, it’s important to pinch them back to keep them from getting leggy and promote bushier plants with more flowers. Pinch plants when they reach about six inches high, then cut about 3/4-1 inch from each branch. When they get to be about a foot tall, repeat the process. The final pinching is usually around July 4, which is roughly 100 days before you want them to bloom.

To keep the plant flowering, deadhead spent flowers.

The best time to divide chrysanthemums is in the spring when new growth appears. And it’s a good idea to them every few years (like 3-5) to maintain plant health, promote flowering and avoid overcrowding.

orange mums in fall

Are Chrysanthemums Hard to Keep Alive

Because garden mums have a shallow root system, they are more prone to drying out, particularly in higher temperatures.

Plants are less likely to survive the winter when they are stressed from drought than well-hydrated plants. Therefore, keep an eye on the watering if conditions become too dry for them. If it’s hot and dry enough, they may need to be watered every day.

Planting in a well-prepared garden with fertile soil that is well mulched or repotting in healthy potting soil with leaf mold and some compost will help them retain more moisture.

I’ve seen DIY and home decor influencers share a “garden hack” to keep your mums alive by dunking them in a bucket of water before decorating or planting them.

And that’s a great idea as it will help them stay hydrated for a bit. But it DOES NOT help them last or bloom longer.

It merely gets them off to a good start because you’ve watered the roots really well but that’s about it.

And if you are buying 20 of those huge chrysanthemums for your porch or garden, does it sound reasonable to drop every one of them in a bucket of water before doing anything with them?

No. That would take you forever and doesn’t sound very fun to do.

Just replant them in good healthy soil whether it’s in the ground or in a pot, and keep them well watered at the base of the plant to keep them from drying out. That’s it!

And if you want a hands-off approach to watering them, try using a drip irrigation system so it’s set and forget on a timer.

driveway garden in fall with chrysanthemums, pansies, pumpkins and lots of autumn color.

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 chrysanthemums need to thrive for the limited time that they bloom.

For most of us, we find them at nurseries, markets, big box stores, and florists in late summer or early fall. At that time for that point of sale, they are bred to be fall garden decor.

Can they be perennial and last in your garden for years to come? Sure.

But I don’t have the love for them like other perennials in my gardens, so I treat them more like annuals.

It’s just easier that way while leaving more room in my gardens for plants that are better at returning in subsequent years.

Since adjusting my perspective, I accept the garden mums plant for what they are, the growing conditions that I have, and the level of care that 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 for 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 25+ 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 love 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.

Now if you’ve had great success with them returning, I am in awe. Because I’ve lived in 3 different homes growing different kinds of gardens and the results for me getting them to return have been lackluster.

To me, there are other plants that do a lot more for the fall garden that are easier to grow.

close up of pink garden mums

Are Mums Annual or Perennial?

Are garden mums perennial or annual?

As we discussed earlier, they are perennial. But to me, chrysanthemum plants are a seasonal fall garden flower that will be short-lived and I treat them as such.

While I still tuck them in my gardens, I consider them like I do a poinsettia. It’s more of a holiday plant than it is a good garden plant.

Do your chrysanthemum 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 require a lot of attention when you first buy them in late summer or early fall.

It’s the plant – it’s not you, which is why we should adjust our perspectives on this pretty fall flower.

Backyard zen gardens in fall with changing foliage at sunset with tree sculpture shaped like koi fish

Do Garden Mums Come Back?

While I consider them to be finicky, chrysanthemum plants can return and many have done it successfully.

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.

Last year, I planted about 30 plants and I’ve got maybe 10 that returned after planting them in the ground last year.

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

I know the stores start putting them out in August and it is super tempting to buy them. But resist the temptation!

But August and early September are way too early to buy chrysanthemums. They do not do well in the summer heat and only bloom for about 4-6 weeks.

So when is the best time to buy garden mums? Follow these simple tips.

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Buy Garden Mums with Intention

It’s important to consider how you intend to use them because mums work out best when they are 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 chrysanthemums, 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 garden mums earlier and either not care when they die or will replace them if I am so inclined.

Note: if you buy them early while it’s still pretty hot out, you have to keep them well-hydrated!

small cottage garden in fall with orange chrysanthemums

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 them in full bloom. Because chrysanthemum plants that are full of blooms will 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.

red chrysanthemums at the flea market

How to Care for Chrysanthemums in Fall

In my experience, garden mums need a lot of attention.

To me, they are not easy-care, low-maintenance plants because they need so much to thrive in the fall. And fall is a time when I prefer to focus on dividing and planting things instead of watering plants to keep them alive every day.

That said, I still buy them every year because I like the autumnal vibe they give, but I consider them a little too fussy to care for in my fall garden.

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. Have I said that enough?

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.

Sunset in the front porch cottage garden in fall with rudbeckia, sedum autumn joy and snapdragons overlooking the valley

How to Water Mums in Fall

Chrysanthemums prefer deep watering. So be sure to water each plant well. Give a good 10-15 seconds on each plant.

Since chrysanthemums 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. Or you can use a soil moisture meter like this one to let you know when the soil is dry.

Deadheading in Fall

Deadheading spent flowers keeps the plant looking neat and helps it bloom longer. While you don’t have to do it, you’ll get more flowers from the plant if you spend a few minutes removing dead flowers that don’t look great anymore.

If you’re not sure how to remove spent flowers, I shared some deadheading flowers tips here.

other front porch in fall with two wreaths for the front door, pumpkins and pansies and garden mums

Chrysanthemums Care FAQs

Do Chrystanthemums Like Sun or Shade?

In general, chrysanthemums grow best in at least 6 hours of sun. However, they can grow in shadier spots but may bloom with fewer flowers.

The more sunlight they receive, the healthier the plant will be and the more blooms you’ll get.

If you purchase them in the fall for your home decor and it’s really hot out, move them to a shadier spot so they don’t dry out as quickly and scorch in the sun.

Do Chrysanthemums Repel Bugs?

Yes, chrysanthemums contain a natural insect-repelling compound called pyrethrin. Pyrethrin is commonly used in insecticides due to its effectiveness in repelling and even killing a variety of insects, including mosquitoes, ants, aphids, beetles, and more.

Some gardeners actually plant chrysanthemums as a natural way to deter pests from their gardens.

garden mums in containers in fall

Do Chrysanthemums Grow in Pots or in the Ground?

Chrysanthemums can be grown both in pots and in the ground, giving you some flexibility based on your gardening preferences and space available.

In the Ground

Chrysanthemums can thrive when planted directly in the ground, provided you plant them in well-draining soil and a sunny location. Make sure the soil is well-prepared with compost or organic matter to improve its texture and fertility.

When planting in the ground, consider the mature size of the chrysanthemum variety you’re growing, as they can vary in height and spread. Proper spacing between plants will ensure good air circulation and reduce the risk of pest or disease problems.

In Pots or Containers

If you have limited growing space or want to move your plants around, growing chrysanthemums in pots or containers is a popular choice.

Choose a container that’s large enough to accommodate the root system of the chrysanthemum and provides good drainage. Use a well-draining potting mix, and make sure the container has drainage holes to prevent waterlogged roots.

In the end, the choice between growing chrysanthemums in pots or in the ground depends on your specific gardening goals, available space, and local climate.

Whichever option you choose, with the right care and attention, you can enjoy the beauty of chrysanthemums in your garden or on your patio.

fuschia colored chrysanthemums

More About Growing Chrysanthemums

Have you had success growing chrysanthemums as perennials? Or do you prefer to treat them like annuals? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I would love to know more in the comments below.

chrysanthemums planted along the driveway in fall - garden ideas

What Do You Think?

Growing chrysanthemums can be a rewarding experience for any gardener, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice. With their vibrant colors and unique shapes, chrysanthemums are sure to add a touch of fall magic to your outdoor space.

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 and have greater success with it.

There are so many different plant options out there that I think are better and provide more bang for the buck.

Remember, gardening is all about experimenting and having fun. What I love and find easy to grow may be different for you. So, get your hands dirty, embrace the process, and learn what works best for you and your garden.

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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

Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

Enjoy your day! xoxo

stacy ling signature
cottage garden in front of a garden shed with fall flowers including garden mums, sedum autumn joy and a wood picket fence.
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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
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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