When summer fades and fall arrives, it can be hard not to mourn the loss of daylight and brightly colored blooms. Have no fear, however, because your garden can flourish in color well after August comes to a close. Fall decorating with mums, or chrysanthemums, provides endless beauty as one season changes to the next.
Mums, which are bright and versatile, are a fall gardening favorite. With hundreds of varieties that tend to thrive in cooler temperatures, you can create beautiful harvest presentations. Native to Asia and northeastern Europe, mums give you the option to choose from a number of various colors, shapes and bloom times. Mums also prosper in containers, so you can easily use them to decorate indoors. They look great in clay pots or lined up in a window box. They add texture to any garden or indoor space, and they provide an easy and inexpensive pop of color.
You can find mums at almost any garden store or center. Although mums are best when planted in the spring, these stores often sell them year-round. From vibrant purples and yellows to blazing oranges, reds and pinks, mums promise new life anywhere you choose to plant them.
Florist and Hardy Mums
There are two different types of mum plants that stem from the same original parent. Florist, or cutting mums, have larger flowers and form a variety of bloom shapes. These types of mums grow only in greenhouses and are mainly indoor plants. Florist mums are often used in the short-term, as they lack underground stolons, which are what a plant uses to survive in cold temperatures. You can plant a florist mum, but it will not survive the winter no matter how much protection it receives.
Hardy mums, or garden mums, however, produce much stronger root systems, allowing them to withstand colder temperatures. Hardy mums are usually perennials that are much tougher than the florist variety.
Caring for Mums
Mums can be planted as both annuals and perennials. Mums are typically inexpensive, so you won’t feel guilty planting them as annuals, since planting in the fall reduces their ability to survive a cold winter. If your plan is to keep them as perennials, it’s best to plant in the spring to give the roots more time to establish themselves. These roots are fragile and easily damaged by the winter’s ongoing cycle of freezing and thawing.
Mum plants require a little bit of maintenance if you plan to keep them past the winter. To help with the process, cut the plants back to the ground after the first hard frost. Then, apply a thick layer of mulch to protect the plant roots. After the last hard frost, remove the mulch and wait for new mum blossoms to appear.
Here are some more mum-care best practices:
- Mums need plenty of sun, so choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day.
- Mums like well-drained soil and have shallow roots. Plant them at a depth of 8 to 12 inches, and be careful when spreading the roots.
- Your soil should always be moist, but never damp.
- Monitor your mums and remove faded blooms to encourage more buds to open. This means you’ll have blooms deeper into the season.
- New mum plants need to be watered thoroughly a few times a week. Once established, stick to one inch of water every week.
- Fall annual mums don’t need fertilizer. If you plan to have them last through the winter, though, they’ll need a high-phosphorus fertilizer to encourage root health and growth.
- Mums that grow as perennials should be divided every few years. When new growth springs up after the last hard frost, dig up the entire plant and separate pieces from the center using a sharp blade. Replant the outer portions and discard the original center of the plant.
- Aphids and spiders like to hang out around mum plants, but they aren’t likely to cause any damage or harm.
Pinching Back Your Mums
Mums begin to sprout in the spring and grow in a bush-like shape. As a result, a mum plant left un-pruned often develops a gaping hole in the center as the weight of the flower blossoms pulls the individual stems outward. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to pinch back your mums starting in early spring and continuing throughout the growing season, beginning once the plant is about five inches tall.
To pinch back your mums, place your index finger and thumb about two inches from the base of the stem and just above a leaf. Pluck the stem just above the leaf. Continue to pluck throughout the plant and repeat this process once the plant reaches about five inches in height again.
Tips for Decorating with Mums
- Combining colors: Create classic fall color combinations like red, gold, and orange, and then pair with a creamy white. These fire-hued plants perfectly pop against the background of a neutral front porch.
- Intricate pots: Pair mums with other plants for a striking and unexpected potted plant look. Bright purple mums fit nicely alongside green grasses, flowering kale or ornamental cabbage.
- Add height: Nearly everyone keeps their mums close to the ground. Use a plant stand to bring your mums closer to eye level so they really stand out for your visitors.
- Mixed materials: Get creative with the rest of your fall décor when you add tiny pumpkins or gourds to accent the fall colors in your potted mums. The orange and yellows produced by the mini gourds look especially appealing against bright purple blossoms.
- Choose dark colors: The blooms on darker-colored mums tend to last longer than lighter-hued blooms. Additionally, spent flowers are less noticeable so your plant appears lively for a few more weeks before winter. Mums with double blossoms will also appear healthier than those with single blossoms.
- Clear the clutter: If you plan to decorate your front porch for fall with mums, make sure it’s free of summer clutter and décor. Stray pots, flags and wreaths can all be stored for next year.
- Use decorative planters: Mums can be repotted into almost anything, and they look great in Coco Planters. You can also grab an eye-catching planter to replant your mums into a more attractive and eye-catching home.
- Unlikely containers: An old wheelbarrow makes the perfect setting for an overflow of mums and greenery. Place purple mums in the middle and surround them with sprouts of flowering kale to create an interesting focal point in your front yard.
- Coordinate with falling leaves: If there’s a big tree in your yard that turns bright red each year, add harmony to your fall landscaping with a few pots of exuberant red-hued mums. On the other hand, if your yard has more evergreens, try accenting them with pink, lavender or white mums.
Popular Varieties of Mums
- Spider mums feature long, dangly petals, like the legs of a spider.
- Quill mums have quilled petals with hooks or coils on the ends.
- Button mums have smaller blossoms with many petals and tend to form tiny, tight bouquets with several stems.
- Cushion mums grow shorter and usually form a mound or cushion of blossoms.
- Vicki mums are decorative, rich orange blooms with a dark orange center.
- Anemone mums have one or more rows of petals with a raised center of disk-shaped florets. These blooms are often darker in color.
Mums in Your Yard
How does your yard look? Send us a photo of your mums. Do you have any questions about the care of mums? Leave us a comment below.