Chrysanthemums (Mums) are a beautiful fall flower that is commonly used to decorate the home and garden. They are a sure sign of fall and a great addition to the landscape. However, they can be disappointing when they don't thrive or last very long. To get the most out of Mums, it is all a matter of perspective and care.
I love Mums, I really do. They are gorgeous and instantly give the fall feels. But I’m not into the level of care they need to thrive for the limited time they bloom. Since adjusting my perspective, I accept them for the plant the they are, the growing conditions that I have, the level of care that I can manage, and use them accordingly.
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, they 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 and 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.
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To me, Mums are a seasonal fall 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 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 like they did for your mom, your friend or whoever, don’t beat yourself up over it. They are not easy to care for – 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.
When to Buy Mums
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. I’ve been tempted to pick them up too. But August and early September is way too early. They do not do well in summer heat and they only bloom for about 4-6 weeks.
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.
Because I don’t want to replace mums, I hold off getting mine until mid-late Septemberish 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 Mum
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 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 they 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.
Caring for Mums
Mums need a lot of attention. And if you read my blogs, you know that I like very easy-care, low-maintenance plants. For me, 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 Mum 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. To test the soil, stick your finger in about an inch deep. If it’s dry, it needs water.
Deadheading spent flowers keeps the plant looking neat and helps it last a little longer. To do this, simply pinch off dead blooms or use scissors to clean them up.
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 Tip That Will Save You Money
- Dividing and Transplanting in the Fall Garden
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