I love planting mums in the fall. How can I get them to come back next year?
Everyone loves the color of mums in the fall and that is often when people plant them. But, the reality is that the best time to plant mums is in the spring!
Now, I’m sure you are saying, “But you can’t buy mums in the spring.” Not so. They are available at garden centers, but I have found that you need to ask for them. The reason for planting in the spring is so that the roots have time to become well established. Mums planted in the fall do not fare nearly as well, especially in harsh winters.
One other factor to consider is the type of mum you purchase. Often chrysanthemums are grouped into two types – floral mums and garden mums. Floral mums often have large blooms and should be treated as annuals. Some examples are pompon, quill or spider mums. They are not winter hardy. Garden mums, however, are hardy in our zone given the proper care and establishment of a strong root system.
Mums (or chrysanthemums) grow well in most well-prepared garden soils that are well-drained and have lots of organic matter. During their early growth, shoots need to be pinched back a couple of times to produce lateral branches. On some of my well established mums, I like to use shears to cut off the blossoms and shape the plant. I generally pinch blossoms or shear back the plants until around the 4th of July. They need to be regularly watered and fertilized lightly.
To help garden mums survive the winter, don’t purchase one in full bloom. While it’s nice to have the instant color, the plant’s energy is going into blooming and not on getting roots established . Mums need mulch for winter protection. Mulch will help keep the soil uniformly cold after it has been frozen in order to prevent the soil from heaving the plant out of the ground thereby killing the roots. The best time to apply mulch is in late November or early December when the temperatures have been below freezing. When the foliage has died, I cut the dead blooms off, and leave most of the stems. Research has shown that garden mums survive better if old growth is left standing through the winter. Apply a thick layer of mulch such as chopped leaves, pine needles, straw, etc. When the threat of frost is over in the spring, pull back the mulch to allow new growth to come through. Prune back the old stems in the spring.
This question was answered by Lila Massa, Greene County Master Gardener. Send your garden-related questions directly to the Master Gardeners. Email your question to GardenQuestions45@gmail.com or send by mail to Ask A Greene Gardener c/o Greene County Extension, 4513 W SR 54, Bloomfield, IN 47424.