Growing Chrysanthemums (Mums)

A popular fall garden flower, mums grow well in containers. This guide is about growing chrysanthemums.

Orange Chrysanthemums
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Many Colored Chrystanthemums
Botanical Name: Chrysanthemum x morifolium
Life Cycle: perennial or annual
Planting Time: spring or late summer
Height: 1' to 4'
Exposure: full sun
Soil: rich, well-drained soil with a neutral to acidic pH
Hardiness: zones 4 to 9
Bloom Time: midsummer to early winter
Flower: yellow, orange, purple, pink, white, fuchsia, red and various shades of autumn colors; single or double blooms in a variety of showy flower heads
Foliage: dark green
Propagation: seeds, cuttings and division (fall or early spring)
Suggested Use: beds, cut flowers, planters, pots, displays, and borders
Growing Hints: In cooler zones, mums can be grown as perennials if cold-hardy cultivars are chosen. Although often planted in late summer and treated as annuals, setting them out in the spring will ensure they have enough time to establish roots to survive harsh winters. Cuttings can be taken in early spring or after flowering and rooted over winter indoors or in a cold frame. Seeds should be sown directly into ground in the spring in the location you want the plants to grow.
Interesting Facts: Mums are photo-sensitive and form flower buds when the length of daylight starts to shorten (usually late July). If you plant them under a streetlight or lamppost they may never set buds.

Mums received from a florist tend to be less hardy and take longer to bloom than most garden variety mums and should be planted earlier in the season to avoid killing frosts.

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Photo of potted mums.Perhaps no sight signals the coming of fall to gardeners more than a pot of brightly colored mums. Here are some tips for keeping yours looking their best this fall.

Determine Use-Annuals vs. Perennials

The first thing to determine when selecting your potted mums is whether or not you eventually want to transplant them to the garden after they are done being displayed. If growing them as perennials, make sure you choose hardy fall mums or garden mums that have been raised locally and are rated for your hardiness zone. If you plan on using your potted mums as annuals, simply choose whatever plants strike your fancy. Keep in mind that hardy garden mums, as opposed to florist mums, will be much more able to withstand cool crisp nights if you plan to display them outdoors. Florist mums, on the other hand, may start to develop black leaves if exposed to temperature below 60 degrees F.

Selecting Your Plants

Select only those with deep green leaves and vigorous growth. Pay special attention to the flower heads. They should be well-formed and pristine with no signs of wilt. If even a single flower head exhibits one or two wilted petals, make sure you perform the thrip test before plunking down your hard earned money (see below).

The thrip test: If you plan to display your potted mums indoors, the last thing you want is to introduce your houseplants to a pest problem. A florist taught me to check potted mums for thrips by using the following test ( a good idea when introducing any new houseplant) and save me from a what could have been a big headache.

Take a small piece of white paper with you to the store. Before making your purchase, carefully tip the potted mum on its side so that the paper is positioned under the flowers. Brush your hand across the tops of the flower blossoms, sweeping any loose debris down onto the paper. If you see anything resembling a tiny (and I mean tiny) black speck running for its life, discard the plant immediately. It has Thrip.

Potted Mum Care

Potted mums can drink considerable amounts of water-especially when kept indoors. Whether youre displaying them indoors or out, check their moisture levels several times each week. Keep the soil slightly moist (never wet), and make sure the pot is never allowed to stand in water for more than a few hours. Good soil drainage is essential.

Fertilizing potted mum is not necessary when they are blooming. If you buy plants that are not blooming yet, feed them every other week with a water-soluble organic fertilizer.

Tips for Extending Blooms

You can extend your total bloom time by picking plants with tight buds (the more the better) rather than those with wide-open flowers. The flowers will also last longer if you keep them out of direct sunlight while they are in bloom.

When displaying mums indoors, keep them away from heat vents and cold air returns. Remove (deadhead) spent blooms as soon as they fade to keep plants well groomed.


  • Lack of flowers: If buds are small or fail to open, try giving the plant more light.
  • Black leaves: Your mums may be too cold. More them to a warmer location.
  • Yellow leaves: You mums may either be too wet or receiving too much humidity. Let the surface of the soil dry out to the touch before watering again and move the plant to a drier location.
  • Gray, fuzzy leaves: This could signal a fungal disease. Move your mum to a drier, warmer location and allow it to dry out some before watering it again.

Mums fail to survive winter or fail to bloom following year: You may have planted mums that were not hardy to your zone. For example, florist type mums (those available year round) are typically less hardy than garden mums. Because they take longer to bloom (bloom later in the season), their flower buds may suffer fall frost damage before they have a chance to open.

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If you like fall Mums this tip is for you! This is a pass on tip, it's been recommended to me to trim your mums down to 4 inches on or close to the 4th of July. This keeps your mums nicely shaped by the time they bloom in the fall and encourages more flower heads also. A lot of people know about this tip.

But the tip that is not as well known is that what you trim off can be planted and will root by fall, if kept watered. It also has the added benefit of supplying you with the same color mums you purchased for that area or where ever you want to plant the cuttings. I like to plant some of my flower beds with certain color combination and have tried to find plants the same color in following years and have failed at times. This way I know what I'm getting and have found an inexpensive way to increase the color in my flower beds.

I've also learned that you can do this with your Autumn Joy Sedum plants, you may not want to go to 4 inches on those, but by topping them before their fall bloom you encourage more flower heads from them also and they are not as inclined to break due to being top heavy.

By looneylulu from Ocean City, MD

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My mum looks dead and it's October. It is a potted mum, I got it early October. I don't understand what to do with it. I have never had one before. It looks dead, no leaves, no flowers, just dry brown sticks. What do I do? I have researched this a lot and have found nothing. I was told to cut the stems an inch from the soil I was also told to throw it out, but I don't know what to do.

By Bridgett S.

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The Chrysanthemums you buy in october have been forced to bloom by using artificial light, warmth and a lot of fertilizer. This makes the plant extremely weak.The soil it is grown in is not proper soil either it is only peat and polystyrene.

To save your Chrysanthemum, try to let it stay in a bucket of water until the soil is completely soaked and it sinks to the bottom of the bucket, get it out of the water, change the water and repeat the process one more time to get rid of the extra fertilizer then put it in a larger pot with proper soil. Do not cut it back as the dry parts of the plant protect it from the cold weather. Protect from frost if you put it outdoors and do not water.

If indoors, keep it in a cool place and do not water. New shoots will appear in spring at the feet of the dry parts. Once the weather is warm enough you can cut the dry parts. It will bloom again in late october or early november the blooming being a reaction of the Chrysanthemums to the shortening of day light. Hope you will save it!

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Can I cut mums now?

By Judy from Omaha, NE

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An expression I always heard: "Prune till June."

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I have mums in containers that are turning brown. They are not getting a lot of sunlight or water. Is that the problem? What does it mean to pinch them back?

Hardiness Zone: 5a

By Andria from Harvey, IL

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Are you talking about the flowers turning brown? The flowers on my mums are turning brown and I am hoping someone has some feedback on this. My mums are planted in the ground and get plenty of water and sunlight.

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Chrysanthemums are the quintessential flowers of fall. From blazing golden yellows to rich shades of mahogany, when it comes to intense color, nothing in the fall garden can match their showy display.

Yellow Chrysanthemums

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My Grandson sold mums to raise money for his school and mine are now blooming. They sure do help the garden with a last spot of color, just when all the rest of my plants are going to seed.

By Joyce

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My chrysanthemums grow nicely and bloom beautifully, and then promptly collapse! Am I supposed to pinch them back as they're growing so they're shorter on the outside of the plant and more supportive?

Polly from Cedar Springs, MI

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Keep cutting them back with the hedge clippers so that they never grow taller than 6 " until about July 4th. Then let them go. They should grow alot bushier & stronger. You could always gather them together with a piece of string too.


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I have just had 12 chrysanthemum stools given me and I would like to know how to look after them through the winter. Many thanks.


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I live in USA's Zone 7 and all we do is when we start pinching the growth in summer to keep them from blooming too early. We take the pieces we've pinched, strip off the bottom leaves, leaving four of five leaves on the top and then plant the piece in a starting bed that we keep on the south side of the house that is filled with about 2/3 sand and 1/3 peat moss, and cover them with a glass jar to root. When they have roots and start to show growth, we plant them where we want them to grow.

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I planted one mum 2 years ago behind my mail box. It has quadrupled in size since I bought it. And the other mum is along my garage and has reproduced another plant. It too has quadrupled in size since I bought it 2 years ago.

By MommyBullock

<a name="bigimage">Garden: Fall Mums

<a name="bigimage">Garden: Fall Mums

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By Ellen Brown




I seem to have good luck with mums. Do you think I should take cuttings from existing bushes (need season suggestion and ideas) or just buy a new and improved variety at the nursery (need variety suggestions). Rain is irregular. I use a sprinkler and hand water. We have hot summers (low 100's) and it gets to below freezing during part of the winter. Sometimes it doesn't snow, but we get a lot of ice storms.

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Holly from Richardson, TX



Why not do some of both? Mulch the mums growing in your garden this fall to protect them over winter. Cover them at the base with about 3 inches of compost or other organic matter (e.g. straw) to protect them from freezing or rotting. Apply the compost as loosely as possible to allow for some air circulation. Don't cut back dying foliage, wait until you see new growth in the spring. Another strategy is to dig up plants, cut them back and store them over winter in a basement or garage until spring.

Around April (when you see plenty of new growth), take several cuttings (6 to 8 inches in length) and insert them 3 to 4 inches into a pot filled with a mixture of moistened sand and peat. Mum cuttings root incredibly fast compared to most other types of herbaceous cuttings, so look for roots within 10 to 12 days. Once a good set of roots is established they can be transplanted if desired. You can also increase stocks of garden mums in the spring by simply dividing them.

Texas is famous for growing beautiful mums and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Because mums come in so many colors and forms, it's difficult to know what to recommend. Growing requirements are similar for many types of mums, so which kind you grow becomes mostly a matter of personal preference. Because Texas heat can delay blooms, it might be best to select later blooming varieties in order to beat as much of the late summer/early fall heat as possible. I would recommend contacting your local chapter of the American Chrysanthemum Society to find out what new and exciting varieties grow best in your area. They can also tell you about upcoming shows and events in your area.

I've also attached a link to a site where you can peruse the images of several mum varieties grouped according to their class.


About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. <a href="post_request.ldml?email_subject=Gardening">Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at


Chrysanthemum Cuttings?

Holly, I've never taken cuttings from my chrysanthemums, but have some that keep coming back year after year. Most of mine are in my flowerbeds and I dead-head them after the blooms have died and they'll rebloom a couple of times a year. In the spring I trim back the dead growth and they start all over for spring. I'm just south of you in Duncanville, so I know about the heat just keep them watered. Good luck. (11/02/2006)

By Nelda

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Home and Garden Gardening FlowersOctober 17, 2012
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