Growing Chrysanthemum Flowers: How To Care For Mums
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By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Chrysanthemum flowers are a classic addition to brighten the autumn garden. Where you live, however, will somewhat determine how to grow chrysanthemums.
How to Grow Chrysanthemums in the Garden
Growing mums successfully in the garden first depends on choosing the right chrysanthemum flowers. Attractive florist mums are sold widely, but are not suitable for growing in the garden as they have a limited root system. Caring for potted mums is another worthwhile endeavor for the gardener should this be the case.
The right chrysanthemum flowers for your garden will come from a diverse selection of hardy or garden mums. When growing mums, you’ll find plants that are dwarf to giant, in colors from white and yellow to the deepest burgundy and purple. Some cultivars bloom in late summer, while others bloom as late as October.
Plant your hardy chrysanthemums in spring in northern areas, as they are more likely to survive the winter once established. In southern areas, mums may be planted in either spring or autumn, though fall offers the greatest benefit of avoiding summer heat.
In all areas, chrysanthemum flowers should be planted in well-draining soil. When learning how to grow chrysanthemums, you’ll find they’re adaptable to soil types, but do best in organic soils.
Mums also prefer a sunny spot in the landscape. Chrysanthemums will grow in partial shade, but may get leggy when reaching for sunlight. Shade grown plants will have weaker stems and exhibit less flowering.
After following these growing suggestions, you’ll want to practice the most important technique of how to care for mums: pinching. When growing mums, this simple practice ensures the most abundant show of late summer and autumn blooms.
Begin pinching back growing mums when new growth is 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm.), removing the stem above the second set of leaves. This directs the growth downward and ensures your chrysanthemum flowers don’t bloom too early. Continue pinching new growth on all shoots through June. This plant material may also be rooted as cuttings for additional mums for the garden. Some of the newer chrysanthemum cultivars do not need pinching, but most benefit from the practice.
Other tips on how to care for mums include fertilizing in spring with a time release fertilizer and planting them far enough apart that the plants get good air circulation. Also, plant mums where they are somewhat protected from windy conditions, such as in a bed sheltered by a building. A heavy layer of fall mulch is appropriate chrysanthemum care in areas that experience winter freezing.
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5 Mistakes You Might Be Making With Your Garden Mums
Keep these beautiful fall bloomers looking their best by avoiding these no-nos. Plus, use these tips for adding potted mums to your garden.
Mums are most often thought of as seasonal potted plants, something to place on the porch to celebrate fall. But once the ﬂowers fade, the plants wind up in the compost bin. Hardy mums (also known as garden mums) like the Igloo varieties and ‘Sheﬃeld Pink’, however, are tough enough to survive winters as far north as Zone 4. With the right care throughout the year, they’ll put on a colorful show each autumn. Generally, mums bloom from September through November (when the days grow shorter and the weather cools off) and stay vibrant for weeks. If you plant hardy mums in your garden, steer clear of these common mistakes and you'll be able to enjoy their beautiful fall flowers for years to come.
How to Grow Chrysanthemums in Your Garden
In the fall garden, chrysanthemums are the showstoppers, blooming prolifically well after other garden plants have called it quits for the season. Native to China and prized for over 2,000 years, the name “chrysanthemum” comes from the Greek words for gold (chrysos) and flower (anthos) and is often affectionately shortened to “mum.”
Research into chrysanthemums will lead to some confusion as you encounter two botanical names: Chrysanthemum sp. and Dendrathema sp. The plants were originally named and placed in the genus Chrysanthemum in the 1700s. Then, in the 1990s, they were moved to the genus of Dendrathema because of the sheer number of varieties being developed. That decision was soon reversed, and Chrysanthemum is once again the official scientific name.
Florist chrysanthemums are often button-shaped.
Varieties of Chrysanthemums
There are literally hundreds of types of chrysanthemums – with variations in height, spread, color, size of flower, bloom time, and type of bloom. There are also hardy garden mums and non-hardy florist or show mums. Some of the most common types of blooms are:
- Single: Long, daisy-like petals
For the home garden, the most common hardy types are the anemone, cushion, decorative, and single varieties. Chrysanthemums are one of the easiest plants to grow, but show-quality and non-hardy blooms require a great deal of care.
“Urano Red-Bronze” has an anemone-style bloom with a darker center.
Growing Conditions for Garden Mums
“Barbara” is a midseason bloomer with small pompon blooms.
Ideally, chrysanthemums should be planted in the early spring after the danger of freezing weather has passed. They can really be planted any time, though, as long as the roots have at least 6 weeks to become established before extremes of either hot or freezing weather.
Chrysanthemums are available at garden centers in up to gallon-sized containers. Choose bushy plants with plenty of leafy stems branching out at the base.
Dig a hole at least twice the size of the root ball, and incorporate organic matter such as compost or peat to help with drainage. Plant the mums at exactly the same depth they were in the pot – avoid water collection around the stems. Space plants 18-24 inches apart.
For larger varieties, install support structures such as stakes or garden fencing, and try not to walk in mum beds to avoid compacting the soil.
“Pelee” mimics the colors of autumn on single daisy-shaped blooms.
When plants are six inches tall, pinch off the tips to encourage bushiness and more blooms. Pinch back again when a foot tall. Some gardeners pinch back every few weeks until July to encourage heavy fall blooming. Last pinching should be about 100 days before desired bloom time.
Spring-planted mums may have been forced to bloom in the greenhouse. Prune back about a third to half the stems when you plant, and it’s likely to bloom again in fall.
After blooming, some gardeners cut mums back to about 4” tall and cover with a light, airy mulch, straw, or evergreen boughs. You don’t have to cut them back, though, and in fact the branches often help hold mulch in place.
Chrysanthemums are spectacular both up close and in multicolored groupings.
Chrysanthemums can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, or plant division. Some chrysanthemum hybrids are patented and cannot be propagated without permission. This is usually indicated on the plant label.
Chrysanthemums actually like to be divided – the new clumps grow better than old, crowded ones. After the last spring frost when shoots are 1”- 3” tall, dig them up and carefully pull or cut apart. Throw away any half-dead or overly woody parts, and plant only the healthy divisions. Add a source of phosphorus to the planting hole, along with organic matter. Ideally, divide chrysanthemums every 3-5 years and relocate to reduce disease.
To propagate from cuttings, snip off a piece about 4”- 6” long, and remove the leaves on the bottom half. Dip in rooting hormone and insert about 1” into vermiculite, sand, or sphagnum moss. Create your own mini-greenhouse using a wire frame and plastic wrap, and place the plants under bright light (but not sunlight) until rooted.
To grow from seed, sow at least 2 months before first frost, or start indoors over the winter. The planting medium should be kept at 70-75 degrees, and seeds should germinate in 1-3 weeks.
The ꞌMargo Whiteꞌ Belgian Mum® (Chrysanthemum x morifolium Belgian Mum® ‘Margo White’) has white flowers with yellow centers.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2015 HGIC, Clemson Extension
About the Fall Mum
Mums come in hundreds of varieties adding a rainbow of color to your garden in late summer and fall while your annuals slowly fade. They easily complement many other late season perennials and transition nicely into container gardens with blooms lasting through October.
Plant in well-drained, nutrient rich soil, in full sun (6+ hours of sunlight per day). They are heavy feeders and drainage is crucial for their winter survival. Plant your mums in the garden mixing one part Petitti’s Planting Mix with one part of your existing soil adding Plant-tone and Iron-tone, and watering well. In a container, use planting mix or Petitti Potting Soil with a couple inches of drainage material at the base, the add fertilizer and water. Remember to fertilize in spring as the new growth emerges and again in mid-summer with Osmocote. Note: plant your mums as soon as possible before frost they require 4-8 weeks to get their roots established to become winter hardy, otherwise they should be considered annuals.
Planting For Success
We want your new plants to look as amazing at home as they do in our garden centers! And we know the level of care taken when planting can make all the difference. Follow Angelo's six easy steps for best results and performance.
The ‘Savona’ Belgian Mum® (Chrysanthemum x morifolium Belgian Mum®) ꞌSavona has dark red, long lasting flowers.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2015 HGIC, Clemson Extension
If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at [email protected] or 1-888-656-9988.
Karen Russ, Former HGIC Horticulture Specialist, Clemson University
Bob Polomski, PhD, Associate Extension Specialist, Clemson University
Barbara H. Smith, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University
This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.