When's the Perfect Time To Buy Your Mums This Fall?

Prepare your porch for the season's favorite blooms.

Photo: Wanchanta / Getty Images

There's something in the air—can you feel it? Autumn is on its way. When fall arrives each year, we find ourselves ready to bake a pie or two, wrap ourselves in cozy scarves, and decorate our porches with all things autumnal. Alongside those seasonal pumpkins and wreaths are pots of gold and orange sunset-colored blooms. During fall, one flower is king, and that's the chrysanthemum.

Chrysanthemums, commonly called mums, have long been a favorite flower in autumn. That's due to their blooms, which come in a spectrum of red, gold, and bronzy hues. Mums are a reliable source of color in the cooler months when the rest of the summer flowers have begun to fade. We never fail to pick up a pot or two at our local garden centers, but we've often asked, "when is the perfect time to buy mums?' Here's a guide to the best time to buy mums for your autumnal garden and how to care for these flowers, so they last all season.

What's the Best Time To Buy Mums?

The best time to purchase mums is after the height of the summer swelter has fully passed. This time is usually when the temperatures start to drop steadily and will reliably remain low. In particular, it's when the night temperatures begin to sink. When this temperature drop occurs, you know fall is here, and it's time for mums.

Mid-September is the earliest time you should consider buying. However, the longer and hotter summers each year push that date into late September, even into October.

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

How To Know When Mums Are Ready?

Look at the Buds

As a rule, Southern Living recommends "buying plants as they start to break bud. You'll maximize bloom time. To find the color and type of flower you're after, check plant tags and cross-reference with already opened blooms. Garden centers usually group like selections together." Also, inspect mums for broken branches before purchasing to ensure healthy blooms. These plants easily break when crowded, so broken branches may never bloom.

Pay Attention to Bloom Size

Another Southern Living recommended tip is, "What you see is what you get: Buy the bigger plant. Once buds start to open, you're pretty much guaranteed flowers―no matter where you display them. They'll be happiest in sun, but if you're planning to compost them once the show is over, it's fine to bend this rule."

Avoid Wilting Blooms

Generally, you won't see much new or continued growth for wilted blooms. Wilting occurs when mums don't receive enough water, but overwatering can also damage these flowers.

What To Do if You Want To Grow Mums?

To see these autumn-favorites show correctly, you must plant mums in the spring. According to the Farmer's Almanac, a spring planting season allows mums time to "put down roots." Keep this plant in an area of your garden that receives plenty of sunlight, and you'll find beautiful blooms in the fall.

Do All Mums Bloom at the Same Time?

According to garden water equipment company Gilmour, mums fall into three categories: early bloomers, early fall bloomers, and late bloomers. These designations determine when to expect the best showing for your chosen mums. Early bloomers can show as early as the end of July, while late bloomers will be best to display throughout the fall, usually into October. The early fall bloomers typically arrive in September, and flowering continues into October.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are fall mums annuals or perennials?

    Mums are perennials, but you can treat these flowers as annuals. Plant mums early—not too deep—and water deeply. After, mulch to help plants retain moisture and for protection from colder temperatures. Use a granular, slow-release fertilizer in the spring and early summer.

  • How long do fall mums last?

    Fall mums typically bloom for three to eight weeks, depending on the variety. Deadheading spent blooms will encourage more flowers in the fall.

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