Chrysanthemums (mums) are one of the most popular fall flowers for the garden. Most varieties are quite easy to grow with their basic needs being full sun, rich soil, good drainage, and good air circulation. There are hundreds of varieties available that can provide blooms from late summer through fall.

Potted mums are a popular front porch decoration during autumn, but hardy types can also be grown in the garden as perennials. Photo by: Nadine Mitchell / Alamy Stock Photo.

Zones:

5-9 (some varieties to zone 4).

Height/Spread:

Varieties 1-3 feet/1-2 feet

Flower Color:

Shades of white, yellow, orange, lavender, purple, or red.

Exposure:

Mums prefer full sunlight during the growing season, and not enough sunlight will result in a weaker plant that will produce fewer flowers. However, blooms will last longer if they are moved to a shadier spot after flower buds develop.

Soil:

Mums prefer rich, well-drained soil. A good rule of thumb is if the soil is good for vegetables, it is good for mums.

Bloom Time:

September to frost. Mums are known as short-day plants, meaning their flowering is triggered by the shortening of days in late summer. Flowering can also be forced in a light-controlled greenhouse.

When to plant:

For use as a perennial, mums should be planted in early spring for their best chance of surviving the winter, or at least six weeks before a killing frost in the fall. If you are using them simply as a pop of fall color, plant them when purchased in late summer or early fall.

Water:

With their shallow rooting habits, mums require more frequent watering, especially in high heat or little rainfall. A layer of mulch in summer will also help to conserve water and keep the soil moist and cool.

Pruning:

Pinching approximately 1 inch from the branch tips two to three times during the growing season will encourage branching and make for a sturdier plant. Earlier bloomers (mid-Sept) should be pinched last in mid-June. October bloomers can be pinched up until mid-July, with the rule of thumb being approximately 3 months between last pinch and bloom time.

Propagation:

When mums are grown as perennials, they can be divided every two to three years in the spring. Dig up the plant when new growth begins to appear, discard the dying center and re-plant the new shoots on the outside of the plant. Mums can also be grown from cuttings taken in the spring. Cut just below a leaf node and root in sterile potting soil. The new plants should be watered daily and kept in a sunny windowsill until established.

Fertilizer:

Mums are not big feeders, so it is best to apply a dilute fertilizer several times before bud set. A fertilizer formulation of 5-10-5 will have the greatest effect on flower production and overall growth.

Diseases and Pests:

Some diseases that can affect mums are leaf spot, powdery mildew, and viral diseases such as mosaic or stunt. Avoid overcrowding and overly shady locations that cause moisture to remain on the leaves, providing a habitat for diseases. Pests can include aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, leafminers, plant bugs, and spider mites.

A mass planting of fall mums at Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by: Ganeshkumar Durai | Dreamstime.

Mums are great for growing directly in the garden or in containers, here are some ideas:

  • Perfect for containers and baskets because of their shallow-rooting habit.
  • Use as an annual in the fall to fill in and replace summer-blooming annuals.
  • With the many color varieties available, mums can provide coordinating or contrasting color accents to both indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Mums are relatively inexpensive, making them a great choice for large groupings or repeated throughout an area.

GARDEN MUM VS. FLORIST MUM:

The difference between garden and florist mums comes down to their hardiness. Garden mums are typically the varieties you would plant outdoors in your garden, hardy in their specific zones. Florist mums are used solely for indoor potted plants and are not suited for transplanting outside. Make sure you are buying the correct type for your intended use and location.

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Photo by: Avant Gardens in Dartmouth, MA.

Chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: September to frost
Flower shape: Daisy

Katherine Tracey of Avant Gardens calls ‘Sheffield Pink’ a reliable, vigorous spreader and suggests pairing it with Aster 'Raydon's Favorite'.

Photo by: Avant Gardens in Dartmouth, MA.

Chrysanthemum ‘Will’s Wonderful’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: October to November
Flower shape: Daisy

Another favorite of Tracey, this pollinator friendly mum features bicolor flowers that intensify and then fade. Margaret Roach, gardener, author and podcaster, also grows ‘Will’s Wonderful’. She likes it because it “shows up extra late” and is “one of the hardiest souls” in her garden.

Photo by: Bluestone Perennials.

Chrysanthemum ‘Homecoming’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: Autumn
Flower shape: Football

Sarah Boonstra of Bluestone Perennials describes 'Homecoming' as a particularly stunning mum with, huge, full flowers. A good choice for cutting.

Photo by: Bluestone Perennials.

Chrysanthemum ‘Matchsticks’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: Autumn
Flower shape: Spoon/Quill

Another Boonstra recommendation, 'Matchsticks' is a snappy flower that often blooms once in summer and again in fall.

Photo by: Martin Hughes-Jones / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Bronze Elegans’

Zones: 6-9
Bloom time: Autumn
Flower shape: Double

This old-fashioned mum has fully double flowers in the perfect fall color.

Photo by: Martin Hughes-Jones / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei Kyo’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: October to November
Flower shape: Pompon

‘Mei Kyo’ is a great mum for cutting.

Photo by: B Christopher / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Cambodian Queen’

Zones: 4-9
Bloom time: September to frost
Flower shape: Daisy

A sport of 'Sheffield Pink' with deeper pink coloring. Grown at Coastal Maine Botanical Garden, Norfolk Botanical Garden and the United States Botanic Garden.

Photo by: Garden World Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Ruby Mound’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: August to October
Flower shape: Cushion

Breed for hardiness in Minnesota, this mum is classified as decorative, which means it is a compact, rounded plant with a formal high petal count flower. Popular for borders and cottage gardens.

Photo by: RM Floral / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’

Zones: 4-9
Bloom time: September to October
Flower shape: Daisy

Flowers start off yellow and transition to a warm pink.

Photo by: Garden World Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Yellow Starlet’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: September to frost
Flower shape: Spoon

This mum is taller, reaching up to 2 feet in height.

Photo by: John Glover / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Grandchild’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: August to September
Flower shape: Cushion

A spectacular Korean mum with good-sized, fragrant flowers.

Photo by: Garden World Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Brown Eyes’

Zones: 5-9
Bloom time: September to frost
Flower shape: Button

Forms a low mound of color with tough flowers.

Photo by: Rex May / Alamy Stock Photo.

Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’

Zones: 4-9
Bloom time: August to October
Flower shape: Incurved

The leaves of this mum turn deep red as they age, providing additionally fall interest.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Are mums annuals or perennials?

Although the most widely available mums are grown as fall annuals, there are varieties that can also be grown as perennials in some regions with a little care to over-winter them. In colder zones, leave the top growth in place and add loose mulch such as straw or evergreen branches around them for protection, waiting to cut back in spring after new growth emerges. In warmer winter climates, they can be cut back to 6” tall after flowering. Check your local garden center to see what varieties work best in your area.

What about the potted mums sold at supermarkets and big box stores?

These affordable plants show up in stores during the fall and have a tidy mound of small flowers. Sometimes called garden mums or Belgian mums, these plants are typically grown as annuals. They are popular for use as part of an autumn display of containers. Most gardeners report that they aren’t as hardy as the mums featured above and rarely winter over.

Are mums poisonous to cats, dogs or other animals?

Mums do contain substances that are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses if ingested, so be sure to keep this in mind when choosing a location that might be explored by curious pets.

Are mums deer and rabbit resistant?

Deer and rabbits tend to avoid plants with fragrant leaves and fuzzy texture, both of which are attributes of mums, making them fairly resistant.

Related:
Homecoming Mums: A Texas Tradition
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