Embrace mums for the best fall color


Nothing says fall like chrysanthemums in the garden.

Mums are truly the most exciting flower in the landscape for late summer and fall display. A Chinese philosopher once said “If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow chrysanthemums.”

The mum was first cultivated in China as a flowering herb; it was believed to have the power of life. The plant was introduced to the United States during colonial times.

Today mums are one of the most popular plants in the fall garden.


The “chrysanthemum” plant family contains different plants in addition to mums. The term “garden mums” applies to those that will flower in the fall. There are many different varieties of mums.

The classification of different varieties is based on the type of flower and its growth pattern. There are six different types of garden mums, determined by their flowers:pompom, decorative, spider, anemone, single daisy, and spoon.

Cultural requirements

Mums are happiest in as much sun as possible. They like slightly acidic soil that drains well and includes organic matter such as compost. They make excellent container plants too. Adding a general purpose fertilizer will help flowering and strengthen the root system.

Don’t water too much, but don’t let them completely dry out either. They will tolerate a light frost and have a long bloom period. Deadhead spent flowers to promote more blooms.

Try to bring them back

In most instances, consider this plant an annual for this area. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to get your mums to come back next year. Try to plant them in the warmest spot in your yard. When a hard frost finally kills the tops of the plant, cut off the dead stems, and cover the plants with mulch three to four inches deep.

You can also just mulch the plants in as is, and then just wait for the green growth in late spring before you cut off the dead tops. Either way, the mulch cover is important to give your plants some insulation.

I have had some success saving potted mums.

Once the plant has finished blooming and the cold weather is here (i.e., after Halloween), cut back the plants about two thirds down. Be sure the pots are adequately watered. Store the pots in an unheated shed or garage. Check on them during the winter; you may need to add water if the pots dry out. You may start to see new growth once the weather warms up in the spring; then you can take the pots out of storage and get them outdoors. You may have to re-pot them. There’s no guarantee potted mums or those in the ground will come back; but it’s such a simple process that it’s worth a try!

If you would like more information about this lovely flower, visit the National Chrysanthemum Society USA at their website, www.mums.org. For more gardening ideas, don’t forget to visit our website cceoneida.com. Cornell Cooperative Extension is always happy to help with your garden questions.

Find your own answers on our website by clicking on Home & Garden on the menu or call us at 315-736-3394, ext. 100. Be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and check out our YouTube channel for great gardening talks.


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