Planted for their spectacular blooms that come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, mums are the perfect fall-blooming plant. Their showy flowers appear in late summer and continue into the fall, creating dense mats of color. If you're planning on overwintering them, plant mums in late spring to give them time to develop roots.
With almost every color of the rainbow available, chrysanthemums can enhance any garden or container. Plant breeders are even working on perfecting a true blue! Mum bloom shapes and sizes are quite spectacular, with a wide range of sizes including the common small cushion mum to the giant spider mums.
Chrysanthemum Care Must-Knows
Growing mums is an easy task as long as you keep a few things in mind. Plant mums in well-drained, evenly moist soil. These plants will quickly rot if where they are planted stays too wet. If you have a heavy, dry soil, such as hard clay, mums would benefit from added compost and peat moss to loosen the soil. Mums can also be considered heavy feeders; it is a good idea to give them supplemental fertilizer throughout the growing season, especially if you're growing them in pots.
For best results from your mum, plant it in full sun, which will ensure a high bud count and improved plant habits. Although some varieties will tolerate part shade, overall your mums will fare better in full sun. Too much shade will cause weak stem growth and decreased blooms. Plus there's a greater risk of foliar fungus issues and root rot if not planted in full sun.
Related: How to Grow & Care for Fall Mums
Planting mums late in the fall can jeopardize the hardiness of your plants. They need enough time to grow a strong root system before your area's first frost, so it's best to get them in the ground in the spring. To help these plants make it through the winter, provide them with a thick layer of mulch.
Pruning and Maintenance
Mums are interesting plants because you can manipulate their flower size and shape with careful pruning. One of the most common ways to use this to your advantage is to keep plants pinched and pruned back in spring before the Fourth of July. Simply pinching the early buds can potentially double the amount of buds your plants will grow in the fall. If you're growing mums for cut flowers, try disbudding, which removes all of the side buds to encourage one central bloom. Another interesting pruning technique is called the thousand-bloom chrysanthemum, or ozukuri, which grows one extremely large plant and carefully trains the blooms to create a giant, uniform mound of blooms.
More Varieties of Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum 'Delano' is a popular red decorative mum, often grown as a container plant. Zones 5-9
'Hillside Pink Sheffield' chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum 'Hillside Pink Sheffield' offers salmon-pink daisies in September and October. Zones 5-9
Chrysanthemum 'Jasper' is an anemone-type mum with red ray florets and a yellowish cushion overlaid with red. Flowers are 2-1/2 inches in diameter. Zones 5-9
Chrysanthemum 'Marilyn' offers abundant white double flowers from September to frost. In cool conditions it takes on a reddish cast. Zones 5-9
Chrysanthemum Companion Plants
Sedums are nearly the perfect plants. They look good from the moment they emerge from the soil in spring and continue to look fresh and fabulous all growing season long. Many are attractive even in winter after their foliage dies and is left standing. They're also drought-tolerant and need very little, if any, care. They're favorites of butterflies and useful bees. The tall types are outstanding for cutting and drying. Does it get better than that? Only in the fact that there are many different types of this wonderful plant, from tall types that will top 2 feet to low-growing groundcovers that form mats. All thrive in full sun with good drainage. Ground cover types do a good job of suppressing weeds, but seldom tolerate foot traffic. Some of the smaller ones are best grown in pots or treated as houseplants.
Asters get their name from the Latin word for "star," and their flowers are indeed the superstars of the fall garden. Some types of this native plant can reach up to 6 feet with flowers in white and pinks but also, perhaps most strikingly, in rich purples and showy lavenders. Not all asters are fall bloomers. Extend the season by growing some of the summer bloomers also. Some are naturally compact. Others are tall types that grow more than 2 feet and benefit from staking or an early-season pinching or cutting back by about one-third in July or so to keep the plant more compact.
Miscanthus is one of the most prized of ornamental grasses. One particular cultivar, 'Morning Light', sums up much of its appeal: This grass is stunning when backlit by the sun, either rising or setting. Statuesque miscanthus makes dense clumps of arching grassy foliage in an assortment of widths, decoration, and fineness, according to variety. Erect, dramatic plumes of flower spikelets rise among the leaves or well above them and last beautifully through the winter. Site miscanthus with good drainage and plenty of space in sun or light shade.