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How to Care for Mums: 10 Tips for Healthy Plants

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Fall is a wonderful time of year. The leaves are falling, the air is crisp and cool (unless you live in the south), and it seems like every color in the world has taken on a new hue. You may have purchased a mum at a local stand and now you need to know how to care for mums to give it a healthy start and blooming season!

That’s right – this season brings with it an explosion of colors as plants change their leaves for winter. Mums are one of these plants, but they need some help and care to last through the fall months. Here are 10 tips that will help you care for your mum so that it stays healthy and blooming all throughout autumn!

Orange and yellow mums on display

Why Use Mums this Fall

Mums are beautiful plants that look fantastic in your garden or landscape. They can be planted alone, with other flowers and grasses, or they can even be used as hedges. The point is – mums make great additions to any garden!

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They need little maintenance (especially compared to many flowering perennials) but do require some care. Did you know that mums are perennials? Many use them as annuals on their porch in the fall, but they’re actually made for so much more! (Side note: did you know that some varieties of mums, also known as chrysanthemums, are edible as microgreens? Check out these seeds from True Leaf Market!)

10 Steps to Keep Mums Healthy and Beautiful

Want to keep your mums looking their best whether they’re in a fall porch display or planted in your flower beds? Here are ten tips to help you keep your mums looking great this season and next year as well.

mums planted in the ground
  • Mum plants come in various colors, so it’s important that you know which type you prefer for your porch or landscape. Once this is determined, the next step is figuring out when they should be planted!
  • For planting, mums can go into the ground between late spring and early summer. You’ll want to make sure that there is plenty of room for growth, so be sure to choose a planting site with rich soil.
  • Consider dressing freshly planted mums with a mulch of compost or another natural mulch to keep watering to a minimum. (Want to learn how to compost? I’ve got you covered!)
  • When it comes to watering your mums, you’ll want to make sure they are getting enough! During the summer months when plants are actively growing and producing buds, the best way to water them is deeply once or twice per week. Depending on the weather and your soil type, you may need to water more or less frequently.
  • If a plant’s soil is allowed to dry out for too long, it will become stressed and begin producing fewer flowers as well as leaves that are yellowed from lack of nutrients.
  • Another cause of yellowing mum leaves and flowers can be over-watering! This can be especially true if your mums are in a pot that doesn’t drain well. Always use a pot with drain holes or plant mums in an area with well draining soil. (Not sure what areas of your yard hold water? Try making a Sun Map of your yard to find out.)
  • While mums don’t need to be fertilized every time they’re watered, it’s a good idea to fertilize monthly. Use an organic product that is formulated for flowers and contains equal amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). Use the recommended dosage on the packaging.
  • Dead head the spend blooms on mums as the blooms fade and dry to promote even more blooms and remove any dead or dying leaves. This keeps your plant looking vibrant and healthy.
  • Mums don’t like extreme heat, so if you plant in summer, it’s important that they’re kept in a spot with partial shade for most of the day. If you live in an area where mums bloom late into fall (October through November), make sure your plants get at least six hours of sunlight a day as temperatures start to drop.
  • A few weeks before the first frost, it is time to do your last fertilization and cut back on watering. This will encourage flowers that bloom until they die off in winter or freeze.

How to Care for Mums Year Round

For mums that are planted in the ground, simply prune back any old foliage leaving stems in tact. To protect from frost and snow, cover your in-ground mums with a layer of good quality mulch.

For potted mums, it’s best to put them in a cool garage or basement where temperatures will be above freezing but below 40 degrees F. If you don’t have space in a garage or basement, consider a sheltered spot outdoors.

Store your pots outside under an overhang where they’ll get some protection from rain and snow, but not too much direct sunlight. (Especially if you live somewhere in the south like us that can have random 70 degree days in the winter, which can bring any plant out of winter mode!)

When the weather warms up in spring, you can remove your pots from storage and move them back outside to their usual spot.

Mums really are a hardy perennial that provide lush green foliage and beautiful blooms that can be enjoyed in more seasons than just fall. So the next time you consider throwing out that “fall mum” remember that it really was made for more than one season.

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