5 Tips to Prolong Fall Blooming of Your Mums in Planters

Love mums in the fall? Keep your potted mums alive and thriving for as long as possible.

How long do mums last in fall container gardens? That's the question many people ponder when planning their outdoor fall display. After putting oodles of time and money into planting your potted mums, it's only natural to want their colorful flowers to last as long as possible. Once you know how long mums in your region remain in bloom, you can plan according to your hardiness zone and buy your potted plants at the right time of year to get the most out of their bloom time. Here are some of the key factors that affect how long mums last, along with 5 tips to help you take care of potted mums so they keep blooming.

mums and pumpkins in planter for a fall display
Whether on their own or combined with other foliage, mums are awesome bursts of fall color in pots or garden beds. Kritsada Panichgul

How Long Mums Last

Even though mums are available for purchase well before fall actually begins, these plants prefer cooler temperatures. If you set out your mums when the temperature is still warm, the flowers will fade in a couple of weeks. Waiting to buy your mums until temperatures are cooler will help them last longer so you can enjoy their beautiful blooms for up to eight weeks before frost.

How to Care for Potted Mums

Help your potted mums last as long as they can with this list of tips.

1. Choose the Best Mums

Success starts with choosing the best chrysanthemums for your fall containers. Although just about every grocery store and big box store will offer mums during the fall, it pays to shop carefully. These plants often get under or overwatered, which stresses the plants so they won't perform as well for you.

For best results, ask when a store is getting a new shipment in and go first thing that day to get the cream of the crop. Or visit your local garden center or nursery, which will often have a larger selection, and the plants will usually be better cared for and healthier. Wherever you shop for mums, avoid buying a wilted plant, and look for ones with more buds than open flowers; you'll get more bloom time out of them and these plants will likely survive repotting better.

2. Pay Attention to the Types of Mums

Take a glance at the plant’s label to check the type of mum and its bloom time. You may find both florist mums and garden mums available for fall decorating.

Florist Mums: If you’re looking to decorate your front porch for just a few weeks before the frost hits, then buy florist mums (also known as cutting mums)—these gorgeous annuals are used as short-term bedding plants, but don’t expect them to survive the winter outside, no matter how you protect your plants from winter weather. Florist mums don’t produce many underground runners, which are needed to survive cold weather. Once the blooms die or frost arrives, this mum will not carry on.

Garden Mums: If you want a perennial that’s more permanent, choose to plant a garden mum (also known as hardy mums). These perennials can survive a light fall frost better than florist types and make an excellent container plant. To improve their chances of overwintering and reblooming the next year, plant these mums in the spring after the last frost date in your region to allow their roots to get established in the garden.

mums in containers
Courtesy of Walmart

Red Mum in Decorative Pot ($27, Walmart)

3. Repot Right Away

Always repot a purchased potted mum plant ($27, Walmart) when you get it home. They are usually root-bound, meaning that the roots are taking up the majority of the pot. Replant the mums in a container larger than the one it came in so the roots have room to spread out and breathe. Gently loosen tangled roots before repotting to encourage them to grow outward again.

Mums do best in well-drained soil so use potting mix in your container. If you are growing mums in pots for a single season, you can mix them with other plants in a large container. If you want to try overwintering your potted mums, plant them by themselves in a container that is easy to move indoors when freezing temperatures arrive.

galvanized metal planters with pink mums front porch
Cameron Sadeghpour

4. Give Potted Mums Enough Sunlight

Mums need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. If you live in a warmer gardening zone, plant your potted mums in a slightly shaded area to prevent the sun from scorching the plants. And if your daytime temperatures are still getting up into the 80s and beyond, protect your plants from the harsh afternoon sun to help the flowers last longer.

5. Water Potted Mums Well

Chrysanthemums won’t last long without water, so whenever the soil feels dry, water your plants. Never let your potted mums wilt. If you notice that the bottom leaves look limp or start to turn brown, water more often. When watering your mums, try not to splash the foliage to avoid plant diseases.

What to Do with Potted Mums After Blooming

Before freezing weather occurs, give the mums you hope to overwinter a little liquid fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus to stimulate root growth. Then, once the first hard frost hits, move your plants inside or into an unheated garage. Pinch off dead blooms to clean up the plant if you want, but leave branches intact; mums have a better chance of surviving if you wait until spring to prune old stems.

Add up to 4 inches of straw or shredded hardwood mulch on top of the soil, filling in around the entire plant and spreading well between branches. Then cover the pot with burlap or an old sheet. As soon as the weather warms up again in spring, pull away mulch to allow new shoots to pop up and move your pots outside into the sunshine.

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