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The Queen of Fall Flowers - the Magnificent Mum

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. It is no wonder that mums are the most widely grown pot plant in the United States; compact varieties with long-lasting blooms are great for containers on balconies and decks. These magnificent jewels are easy to transplant and grow-no garden should be without them. Plant chrysanthemums and you'll enjoy eye-popping colorful blooms from late summer through mid-fall. Although they are easy to grow and care for, there are a number of things to consider before planting mums in your garden:


  • When to Plant: You can plant garden mums anytime from summer through early fall. The sooner you plant them, the more time roots will have to become established-a critical factor for winter survival.

  • When to Transplant: Although spring is best, transplanting can be done anytime if done with care. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball, making sure the location you selected has good drainage. Plants should be set into holes approximately 1 inch deeper than they were growing the pot.

  • Containers: Chrysanthemums are easy to grow in containers, so lack of yard space isn't a concern. Soil needs to provide for good drainage and containers should be located in areas receiving maximum sunlight. Tall, upright varieties (up 18 inches in height) tend to look spindly when grown in pots. Smaller, compact varieties look best.

  • Sunshine and Well-Drained Soil: Mums need full sun to put on their best show of color and although they are not picky about the type of soil they're in, they do need very well-drained soil. For the best growth, give them a light balanced fertilizer (5-10-10 or 10-10-10) once every month until buds form.

  • Water: Water consistently all summer as necessary to supplement natural rainfall.

  • Frost Protection: In northern zones, hardy varieties of mums will laugh in the face of light frost. Still, harder frosts will turn flower tips brown so care should be taken to protect mums from heavy frost in order to maximize the length of flowering.

  • Artificial Light: Reduced daylight hours and cooler temperatures are what trigger chrysanthemums into flowers. Planting mums near streetlights or security lights can delay flowering and should be avoided.

  • Air Circulation: In most zones, the fall season brings cooler temperatures and increased moisture. Due to the compact nature of their growth, mums should be planted away from barriers and walls that may hinder air circulation to reduce the likelihood of developing damage from mold and mildew. Because cooler temperatures trigger flowering, and cooler air sinks, locating plants away from barriers and walls will also allow cool air to circulate around the plants.

  • Pinching Back: For bushier plants, pinch back growing stems by 1-2 inches throughout the summer. Pinch taller varieties when plants reach 6 to 9 inches in height. Shorter varieties should be pinched back when plants reach 4 to 5 inches in height. Don't pinch back stems after July. Pinching stems too late in the season can inadvertently postpone blooming by several weeks creating the potential for disaster in zones with short growing seasons.

  • Helping Them Survive Harsh Winters: Don't cut mums back after blooming. In cold climates, the foliage can help the plants over winter by trapping protective leaves and snow. In warmer climates, the foliage will still be metabolizing crucial energy stores for next season. After heavy frosts damage petals and leaves, mulch mums with 2-3 inches of straw or leaves.

  • Choose the Right Variety: When a flower has been grown for over 2,000 years, you can expect that there are hundreds and hundreds of varieties, each with their own unique shape, color and growing requirements. Ask your local nursery which types are best suited to your specific climate, and enjoy creating a riot of color for your fall garden.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. 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

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By guest (Guest Post)
November 16, 20050 found this helpful

Should I cut back my mums that havee finished blooming now

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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