Chrysanthemums, or mums for short, are fall blooming favorites. Their blooms last for weeks in the cool weather when other flowers peter out. A perennial in some areas, we consider them an annual in the Madison and surrounding area, or a tender perennial at best. With some extra care and mulching there’s a slight chance mums will overwinter outdoors which is discussed below under the heading “overwintering mums”.
As an annual, mums are easy to care for. The most important thing is to keep the soil evenly moist. That means not watering so often that the soil is always soaked, but especially that the soil never completely dries out. Check daily for watering needs if kept in a pot and less often if in the ground. When planting in the ground, be sure it’s in well draining soil, amending the surrounding soil with compost if soil is dense or full of clay.
Our mums are already blooming when you get them and still feeding from slow-release fertilizer they received when planted, so there’s no need to fertilize. Our mums are also grown in a larger pot, so plants are not only bigger, but also require watering less often.
As blooms begin to lose their luster, they can be dead-headed and you might just get a little extra color from the buds beneath. When shopping for mums, one thing worth noting is that different colors bloom at different points in the season. If you don’t see the color you’re looking for, check back at a later date or ask an associate for an idea of when your desired color might be available!
In the Madison and surrounding area, mums have a slight chance of overwintering outdoors in the ground. If you try it, please remember that we do not guarantee that they will come back in the spring. We sell them as annuals, but a few people have luck growing them as perennials because they just happen to have the right conditions for it.
Your best chance for overwintering is with spring mums, which are small and have time to establish roots over the summer. They’re often overlooked in the spring among annuals because they usually aren’t blooming at that time. Plant them in the spring and continually pinch off the buds (about every 2-4 weeks) until the 4th of July. This ensures they have the energy to get their roots established, branch out, and form a nicely compact shape. Water them well right after planting and maintain even moisture thereafter. Don’t cut them back until next spring and push leaves up around the mum plants to help them survive the winter.
To try overwintering fall mums, plant them deep enough so the soil level comes up to the first set of branches to better insulate the crown. Do not cut back in the fall and mulch with at least 4” of leaves, getting leaves between the branches. Another option is to cover with a layer of evergreen boughs from your Christmas tree and cover with a layer of snow for insulation. The goal is to insulate the plant so that it can maintain an even temperature throughout the winter. In the spring, trim back, fertilize and pinch blooms every 2-4 weeks until July 4th. Remember, new growth in spring is slow and comes from the rooted lower branches of last years mum.