When to Move Mums Out to Ensure They Last All Season

We have answers to your most common questions about chrysanthemums.

Chrysanthemums are the MVPs of the autumn garden. They take center stage in any fall decoration or front porch display. They bloom in cheery autumnal hues, and many can endure Southern winters with grace and avoid deer grazes. When fall arrives, we never forget to put out our mums, whether perennials or annuals. That said, there are always a few things to remember when the mum season arrives—including the best weekend to put mums out, so they ensure pretty blooms all season. Here are answers to the most common questions about mums.

When Should I Move Potted Mums Outside?

Depending on the weather, Labor Day weekend is a good indicator for when to move your potted mums outside and start planning your fall gardening and decorating. If it's still sweltering, you may want to wait a few weeks, putting your mums out in mid-to-late September. When the weather shifts to more chilly conditions, and you can feel a hint of fall in the air, you know it's time to set out the pots. If you're shopping for plants at your local garden center, select mums with many closed bloom buds to ensure the plants will have longevity. Another tip is to buy 'hardy mums' because these have a better chance of withstanding the winter elements than florist mums.

Can I Keep My Potted Mums Over Winter?

According to The Grumpy Gardener, "If you want to plant out your potted mums, do so this fall. Don't leave them in pots for the winter. Pick out a sunny spot with fertile, well-drained soil that contains a lot of organic matter. Mums steadily spread but tend to die out in the centers. So every couple of years, lift the clump in spring, discard the old, woody center, divide the remainder into three to four plants, and replant."

You want to remove any wilted blooms to encourage new growth. Still, according to the Farmers' Almanac, these wilted blooms might help protect your mums once the weather temperatures decrease. According to outdoor water maintenance specialists, Gilmour suggests using mulch to cover the base of your mums when the temperatures reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit—this can help get the soil at an even temperature through insulation.

In addition to well-drained soil, maintaining a consistent temperature will help care for your mums throughout the changing seasons. The soil temperature fluctuates from freezing to thawing, damaging the roots.

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

When Do Mums Bloom?

Many mums bloom throughout the fall, but some species will provide blooms from late spring through the fall. The early bloom may emerge in the middle of summer, while the later flowers will show up through November. Sometimes, the mum season varies according to unpredictable weather changes. The Southern Living Garden Book states, "Sometimes mums are fooled by cool weather and short days into blooming in spring." If this happens, you should cut them back to ensure they'll bloom again in the fall.

Perennial mums, if well-cared for, can bloom yearly. Potted harsh varieties can withstand the winter months. To preserve the plant, move it indoors in a cool and frost-free environment, such as a garage.

Should I Pinch My Mums?

Pinching back mums is a trick that savvy gardeners use each year to encourage a bushier, more floriferous plant in the fall. Pinch or prune the tip of every stem in spring or early summer, removing any buds that have started to form. You can pinch off buds repeatedly if you stop the practice in July. Pinching will delay bloom time and force your mum to produce a new flush of growth laden with flower buds.

On the other hand, if you have old-fashioned, heirloom mums, you might want to skip any pinching. Tall mums flopping against a picket fence can be a very charming look.

When Should I Plant Mums?

Plant young mums in early spring, if possible. In this case, the earlier, the better because mums need time to establish root systems in the soil. If you are buying mums to plant, check the tags, and be sure to select hardy mums or garden mums, which are perennial in USDA Zones 5 to 9. The Grumpy Gardener recommends several old-fashioned mums like 'Country Girl,' 'Venus,' and 'Single Apricot Korean.' These pink-hued varieties can grow up to two feet tall, will be able to withstand the South's winter weather, and should thrive in the garden season after season when planted in full sun.

According to The Southern Living Garden Book, you should "set out young plants in early spring. Water deeply at intervals determined by your soil structure—frequently in porous soils, less often in heavy soils."

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