How to buy, plant, and maintain fall's staple flower
Fall Outdoor Display with Mums and Pumpkins
Credit: Hector Sanchez

1. It's better to buy plants with unopened buds

You'll get more bang for your buck. Although you won't have immediate color, you'll get to enjoy the blooms for the entirety of their lives—you never know how long a plant that's already flowered has been that way.

2. Always re-pot after purchasing

By the time mums make it to your front porch, they're most likely root bound. This means that roots have taken up the entire pot, replacing the soil with roots. Without enough soil, your mums will lack water and nutrients. To save a root bound plant, replant it in a larger pot, breaking up the roots in the process.

3. Mums love the sun

Despite being fall plants, mums need summertime-level sun. Make sure you put them in a place that gets a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight per day—6 for bigger flowers,

4. Pests aren't a problem

The only mum-ruining bugs you need to worry about are the typical aphids. A simple spray of soapy water over buds and stems will kill any annoying aphids.

5. Mums are easily fooled

Mums can easily misread weather patterns, resulting in unseasonal blooms at unexpected times. If a mum blooms prematurely in the late summertime, it won't bloom again for the season. If it blooms in the spring, as long as you cut it back within 8 inches of the ground, it will bloom again in the fall.

6. After mums are done for the season, they're easy to plant and regrow next year

After the first fall freeze browns the foliage, replant them in your garden to regrow for next year. They'll need a fertilized, well-drained, sunny spot. Cut the plants down to base level, and compost the old leaves and stems. As soon as the mums grow in the spring, sprinkle a few tablespoons of organic fertilizer around each plant. Pinch every 2-4 weeks to ensure you have sturdy plants come fall.