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How & When to Plant Mums: Methods & Care Guide

chrysanthemum in a pot indoor

Chrysanthemums, or “mums” as they’re commonly called, are brightly colored, bushy flowers that are frequently featured in supermarkets around August or September. They are one of the last flowers to blossom in that year’s growing season, signaling the lazy days of summer are coming to an end and ushering in autumn’s arrival.

Mums have different needs depending on whether they’re a florist or garden variety. It’s important to recognize which type you have so you know how to best care for your plant. Continue reading to learn how and when to plant mums as well as how to care for them after they are planted.

garden flower divider

Three Ways to Grow Mums

You can start growing mums in your garden from seed, by propagation, or division. You’ll need an existing plant or seeds from last year to begin. You can plant seeds from a seed packet or gather your own from last year’s dried flowers. Start your seeds inside about 6-8 weeks before the last frost in spring if you want early blooms.

Spring or summer is the best time to propagate a chrysanthemum. Simply cut the stem around one of the nodes and bury around 2-3” of the raw end in peat moss or perlite. Keep the soil moist, but not over-saturated. Pinch off the top-growth in a couple weeks to encourage the plant to continue to grow.

Your chrysanthemum will benefit from being divided every two or three years. This is great news for you because you can receive free plants for yourself or to share with your neighbors. To divide your mum, carefully dig up the root ball and divide the roots into 3-5 sections, replanting each section into the ground or into pots. You now have several new plants!

pink chrysanthemums
Photo Credit By: Elstef, Pixabay

How to Care for a Florist Mum

If you selected your plant from an indoor market or picked one of the pots prettily wrapped in colored foil, chances are you have a florist variety. These plants are only grown in greenhouses and indoors; they will not survive the winter due to their weak underground runners which they need to thrive in cold weather.

Treat these plants as annuals. You can plant them in the ground or grow them in pots, although it’s recommended to at least switch out the pot they came in. Sometimes plants can become root-bound if they’re in the same pot for an extended period. It’s best to gently break up some of the roots and find your mum a new home either in the ground or in a slightly larger pot with rich topsoil and plenty of room to grow.

Mums require full sun, but they can dry out easily, especially if it’s still hot outside. Be sure to keep your mum well-watered and feed rich compost for best growing results. Though these plants only live for a season, they’ll provide you with ample blooms until the harsh freezes come if you take care of them. You can also pinch off or “dead head” dried mum flowers to encourage the plant to keep growing and blooming.

How to Care for a Garden Mum

If you’re looking for a mum that’ll last longer than the turkey after Thanksgiving, the garden mum is the variety for you. Although they turn dormant for the winter, the garden variety will return in the spring if you treat them well and live in zone 5 or warmer.

You should plant your garden mum in the spring for the best results so that it has plenty of time to build strong roots before the year’s first frost. You will probably get a few spring flowers, too. Pinch off early growth so that they’ll bloom again in the late summer/early fall.

Once your mum has finished blooming for the year, cut the stems two inches from the top and cover before the first frost. Garden mums are hardy in zones 5-9, so they’ll survive the winter in mild or moderately cold climates but even the toughest plant probably won’t live through a Wisconsin winter.

garden flower divider


Although mums are associated with fall, you’ll have to begin working on them early if you want a garden variety. Florist varieties only last for a few months but they’ll live longer if you take the time to re-pot them after purchasing and pinch off the dead flowers to encourage growth. Whether you have a perennial plant or a flower that’s just here for the season, your mum will reward your gardening efforts with a shower of multi-colored flowers.

Featured Image Credit: Elstef, Pixabay


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