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The daytime temperatures may still be soaring upwards as the end of summer approaches, but believe it or not, containers of colorful chrysanthemums—or mums as we like to call them—will soon be appearing at your local plant nurseries and gardening centers. Perhaps no other fall flower creates as much excitement as the mum. The arrival of this brightly colored flower signals the coming of shorter days, cooler weather, outdoor decorating, cozy sweaters, pumpkins, apples, and so many more wonderful things. Follow these easy steps to get the best blooms and lengthy shows from your mums this fall.

What Colors of Mums Are Available?

Mums bloom in all fall colors, offering vibrant orange, red, and yellow petals. The versatility of the chrysanthemum means that they also show off in white, pink, and lavender blossoms. You can group colorful mums in containers to display on your front porch, plant them attentively in your garden, or have fun with "mumkins" by arranging bouquets of mums using pumpkins as planters, creating a lovely fall decoration.

How To Shop for Mums

To maximize the chrysanthemum's bloom time, buy the plants just as they are starting to break bud. This strategy means buying mums with the least number of buds showing color since you will see a better bloom from this planter later.

However, you'll want to ensure enough buds are showing to check the color of the plant you're buying. Not only will you be sure of what color mums you'll end up with when they fully bloom, but the flowers will also last longer this way. Once the buds open up more, you are practically guaranteed flowers.

How To Plant Mums

Mums purchased from large garden centers are likely to be root bound and starving for soil, water, and nutrients. You'll need to repot them and give them plenty of room to breathe. Pick a container or garden spot that offers the mums ample space for the root ball to spread out and grow.

Whether you place your mums in pots to decorate your porch or use them as a bedding plant, you want to choose a spot that gets a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight daily—even more for bigger plants. Water well and continue to water every other day as long as the plant continues blooming.

Cheery Chrysanthemums
Nothing ushers in autumn like mums. Slip them between the coleus from your summer pots for a big show of color.
| Credit: Photo: Van Chaplin

How To Encourage New Growth

Keep mums in moist soil, but not wet. Fertilizing these particular flowers is not necessary. It would help if you also took time to remove spent and faded blooms to encourage even more buds to open, and you will have beautiful, colorful mums throughout the season.

How To Care for Mums Throughout Winter

Relocate Mums

After a few touches of frost, the foliage on your mums will begin to brown. That means it is time to replant potted mums in your garden. Also, if you had put mums into beds for temporary fall color, you may want to transplant them to another location as well.

When repotting or relocating your mums, choose a location with well-draining soil. Often, it isn't necessarily the cold weather that kills mums, but the ice that forms around the roots if the mums are sitting in water. Soil that drains properly is key to successfully overwintering mums. You may also want to choose a somewhat sheltered location from strong, cold winter winds, which can also be harsh on mums.

Prune and Mulch Mums

Once in the ground, cut the stems of the mums at three to four inches above the ground. Leaving a little bit of the stems will ensure you have a full plant next year, as the new stems will grow from these trimmed stems. Once the ground has frozen, add a layer of either mulch, straw, or leaves over the plant to help keep it insulated. Mulching keeps the soil from going through a cycle of warming to freezing and back to warming, which only confuses the plant as to whether it should stay dormant or begin new growth. Watch for new foliage in the spring, fertilize with organic fertilizer, and pinch every two to four weeks to ensure you have sturdy plants come fall.