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Tips for Keeping Potted Mums Looking Great

Have you ever purchased a chrysanthemum (better known as mum) to decorate for fall, just because they’re beautiful, they scream fall to you and you couldn’t resist, just to get it home and have it looking pathetic in a couple of weeks? That’s so aggravating! And, it just feels like money out the window.

After many years’ experience and lots of money wasted on potted mums for my outdoor fall vignettes, I’ve put together these tips for keeping potted mums looking great. With these tips and a little care, you can get the biggest bang for your buck from your potted mum.

Let’s just cover a few basics about chrysanthemums before we get started. There are annual fall mums used mainly for outdoor fall decorating and there are perennial or hardy mums that are planted right in the garden and return year after year. I have both, but for this post we are talking about annual potted outdoor mums (not indoor mums or florist mums) that only live a few months in the fall. Some of you lucky gardeners in warmer gardening zones can plant your annual mums in the ground and have them return next year.

Fall flowers in a garden center

The Best Time to Buy Potted Mums

First of all, let’s go shopping. Now this is the first rule of thumb in keeping potted mums looking great – don’t buy your mums too early. I know we have readers from all over the country, so it’s an important thing to know when too early is. Know the extended weather forecast for your area. Your potted mum will do well in daytime temperatures in the 60s and below.

Outdoor potted chrysanthemums like cold weather and a light first frost won’t phase them. For instance, here in Minnesota – Zone 4b, it’s best to wait until mid to late September or early October before purchasing mums. Don’t give in to temptation when the garden centers and grocery stores start displaying all the beautiful mums in late summer.

So this year, I’m totally guilty of breaking my first rule. I purchased my mums about a week and a half ago, when the weather was nice and cool, and I was feeling all cozy and ready for fall. I love this time of year so much that sometimes I totally jump the gun. Can you relate? Now this week, we have had several days with temps in the mid to upper 80’s and my mums’ little buds are popping like crazy.

colorful fall mums

How to Shop for Potted Mums

Let’s pretend there’s a chill in the air, we have our sweatshirts on, and we’re in the mood to get some outdoor fall decorating done. Let’s go shopping together and I will give you some tips for picking out the best mums. When I walk up to a gardening center and see this – beautiful mums in full bloom, it’s pure sensory overload! BUT, wait, we do not want to buy these mums.

Tips For Keeping Mums Looking Great - Mums at Gertens

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Don’t you just love to look across a big box store greenhouse and see hundreds of pots of mums. These aren’t the mums for us either.

Tips For Keeping Mums Looking Great - Mums at Lowes

Aren’t these gorgeous! Such pretty plants! The rich vibrant color is what fall is all about. But, these won’t be coming home with us either.

Tips for Keeping Potted Mums Looking Great

So here’s my BEST tip for keeping mums looking great – pick out mums that have tight flower buds with lots of new growth, like this next picture. I realize it’s not instant gratification, but in the long run it will be a better purchase. They are full of tight buds with very few open flowers. Now, these are the mums we want to buy.

Tips For Keeping Mums Looking Great - Mums with closed buds

Here’s a Pin to save to one of your Favorite Gardening Boards or Fall Boards on Pinterest:

Watering Tips for Your Potted Mums

My number three tip for keeping mums looking great is to make sure they have enough water. All the tips are important, but this one is probably the most important. Mums are thirsty plants and like to be moist, and do not respond well to dry soil.

Once you have your mums home, immediately check to see if the soil is damp by simply sticking your finger in the top inch of soil. If the soil feels dry, give them a nice slow soak. Also, grab a saucer that you have laying around or an old plate and put that under the pot. These saucers are the ones I use and they work perfect. The saucer will catch the water run off and help to keep the plant moist at the bottom where the root ball will soak up the moisture.

Even if you’re going to plop the entire pot into a more attractive container, put a saucer under it. Another good watering tip is to water at the base of the plant, closest to the roots, very slowly. At the same time though you don’t want them to have to much water. So, if it rains or you notice there’s still water in the saucer the next day, dump it out so the mum doesn’t get to moist and rot. Be sure to feel the soil to see if it’s moist every day.

Image of Mums & Pumpkins

Tips for Keeping Potted Mums Looking Great – Deadhead

Here’s my fourth tip for keeping mums looking great. As your mum continues to bloom, pinch off the dead blooms and even old stems, or the ones that are fading and turning brown. For you non-gardeners, that’s called deadheading. This just keeps the plant looking tidy. Sorry, but in the case of annual mums, it does not promote rebloom.

Tips For Keeping Mums Looking Great - Mum in full bloom.

A Few More Tips For Keeping Potted Mums Looking Great

In closing, just a few more tips for keeping your mums looking great. If the weather forecast shows lots of sun and the temps moving to the upper 70s, consider moving your mums to a more shady spot temporarily. In fact, if you are in warmer climates, consider keeping your outdoor potted mums in an area where they do not get full sun. Yes, potted fall mums are considered full sun plants (6+ hours of sun per day) and need plenty of sun, but if you want them to last longer, I suggest giving them a little protection from hot afternoon sun.

I used to never repot the mums I purchased for my outdoor fall displays, until a few years ago. I found out that the mums that were repotted into a larger pot and had fresh potting mix added in, lasted much longer than the ones that were not repotted. Adding some organic matter from your compost pile into the bottom of the new pot will go a long way in making your mum last. Other than adding a little compost when you repot your mums, it is not necessary to fertilize them. They have already been fertilized a ton by the grower and adding more will not improve their odds of lasting longer. Try repotting and see what you think. 

Potted fall mums make such a great addition to your home’s curb appeal and really are the best way to add charm to your fall outdoor decorations or your front porch. Taking care of your mums with these simple tips, will be your best bet for getting your fall mums to last longer. 

When landscape starts looking really drab in late fall around Thanksgiving, often times I will purchase a new mum or two to freshen up the front porch. Do you have any other tips that you practice to keep your fall mums looking great? Please leave a comment below and let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

Here are some other Fall Gardening posts you’ll enjoy:

Tips on Transitioning Container Gardens to Fall
Fall Outdoor Decor Ideas
Fall Gardening – Thinking Ahead to Next Spring
Planting Bulbs in the Fall For Amazing Spring Flowers
Fall Porch Decor

Thanks so much for stopping by Gingham Gardens today. I so appreciate your visits and your kind comments. Feel free to hang out for awhile and check out a few of my fun Fall Gardening posts.

Happy gardening for a little while longer,

Some super cute fall decor items to go along with your potted mums:


p.s. Please help me out by pinning the pins to your favoritese pictures. Simply hover in the upper left-hand corner and click the “pin” icon. There are some more pins at the bottom of the page. Thanks!!!!

p.p.s. Follow Gingham Gardens on Pinterest for lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy.

Pins to share:

Image of Chrysanthemums with text overlay - how to keep potted mums looking great

Image of Mum Flowers with Text Overlay - How to Keep Potted Mums Looking Great


  1. These sound like great tips! I didn’t realize that these are considered annuals! Now I will have less stress and no more trying to make them survive!

    1. Hi Carol – thank you for stopping by Gingham Gardens! I’m so glad you found the post about outdoor potted mums so helpful. Come back soon! Happy gardening and happy fall, Joanna

  2. This was wonderful and helpful information. I am concerned tho because the only area where I can put my mums in the afternoon sun on the west side of my house here in Ohio. I guess my only hope is that the weather won’t be too hot in Sept.

    1. Hello Connie – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Just be sure to check your extended forecast before you purchase your mums and you may want to wait a little longer before buying. Good luck and happy fall, Joanna

  3. I have a question for you ? Ok I live in apt. And I have great sunlight but I would like to know is their any way I can keep my mums in my apt. All winter . Or can I root them and start a new mum during the winter months here where I live . Thanks I love reading up on the mums . I have some more questions for you sometime.

    1. Hi Mary – that’s a great question and I will be honest, I’m just not sure. I know others can overwinter their annual mums outdoors, but I don’t know of anyone that has ever brought them in for the winter. I say just go for it. A lot of gardening is experimentation. Yes you can definitely take cuttings from your mums. Happy small space gardening, Joanna

  4. Well after reading your post, I definitely broke the two major rules. Purchased them to early plus bought them fully bloomed. I live in a small town and the few places that have them available, it’s a minimal selection, so I took what I could get. I didn’t want to wait to go out of town. Yes, I was over excited!!
    I am from Iowa and we too had the awesome cool weather then the Good Lord gave us some more hot weather. I’ve kept them watered. Even giving them miracle grow a time or two. They’ve been dead headed a handful already as well. The only thing I haven’t done is put a tray under the pot. I guess I’ll be doing that to see if that will help at all.
    My mums are just sad and it makes me disappointed in myself for not being able to keep them looking healthy. I probably have $150 worth of mums that look like green bushes. Not exactly what I was wanting for my outdoor Fall décor.
    If you have any suggestions, I will take it. I would just love to see a few blooms before its time to get rid of them for the year.

    1. Hi Lori – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. I’m sorry you didn’t find this article before you purchased your fall mums. Unfortunately, once annual potted mums bloom they will not rebloom again this season. Depending what gardening zone you are in, some are able to plant annual mums in their gardens and they return the following year. Here in my zone 4b gardens, I have not been so lucky. At least next year, you’ll remember not to purchase your mums too early and to buy mums with tight buds instead of blooms. I think the only thing you can do this year it to buy more mums. Happy gardening, Joanna

  5. If you plant them they will come back. I usually get a few blooms in the Spring. Cut they back on the 4th of July and they will mound better. When they get too big–they do spread–split them just like you split hosts a in the Spring. Mine look lovely along my driveway in the Fall and give me something green along there in the Spring and summer.

    1. Hi Cathy – thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It depends what gardening zone you are in and whether or not you purchased “hardy” mums for your area. I agree that perennial mums are lovely and very prolific as you have described. In my area, one has to look pretty hard to find perennial mums, but the annual varieties are every where. Happy fall, Joanna

    1. Mines are in the ground I purchase them from a nursery I didn’t know there were different mums hope my last. And thank you for the tip..

      1. Thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. I’m happy you enjoyed the article on mums. I hope your mums last and come back next year. A lot depends on what gardening zone you are in. Good luck and happy gardening! Joanna

  6. I love fall. My favorite time of the year
    God does know what He is doing He made me an October baby. FALL IS A GREAT CELEBRATION TIME FOR ME AND i love mums. Oh my gosh
    I am getting some tomorrow after church. I can’t wait
    But yes mine die in a week or so
    Thank you so, so much for these tips. Does it matter how long in sun or shade if the temperature is right? Thank you and God bless you for sharing your expertise, Maribeth

    1. Hi Maribeth, I’m so glad you stopped by! My daughter is an October baby too! Yes, Fall is a wonderful season. Mums do like the sun as long as it isn’t too hot. Good luck, happy birthday and have an awesome Fall enjoying God’s beautiful creation.

  7. a little advice on buying MUMS….if want to keep for the next year planted in garden not get annuals (annuals only live this one year)

    1. So true, Dorene. In my area it’s a bit difficult to find perennial mums. Most of the mums for sale are the annual ones. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  8. I ask the garden centers if their mum’s are perennial to our zone 4. I’m surprised by how many aren’t. I love them because honey bees love them ,🤗

    1. Hi Linda, you are right it is difficult to find hardy mums. I’m not sure where you are located, but I was able to pick one up at a local nursery called Bachman’s. They had about a dozen. 🤷‍♀️

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Pam. It was in the 90s here for several days. Now we’re getting much needed rain and the temps are cooling down.

  9. Great tips, Joanna. But like you I broke the rules I usually follow last week. Even if you buy tight buds in my area you need two sets of mums to last. It has been 96 here the last week.

    Usually, the stores drag getting them in because they realize keeping them are hard. I am in zone 8.

    1. Hi Bonnie, I find it very difficult not to buy mums right after Labor Day. Last week I found some quart-sized mums for $1.25. I couldn’t resist. The lady several days temps have been in the upper 80s into lower 90s. That’s too hot for me. Good luck and happy gardening!

    1. Hi Cherryl, thanks for stopping by. Mums are one of the few flowers that will take a frost and that’s why they make such great fall flowers. Plus, they are sooo pretty. Just pick up a few and give them a try again and don’t forget to water. Good luck!

  10. Beautiful!! I have not bought my Mums yet but will be doing so soon. Thanks so much for stopping by!!

  11. I love this tip! While I love gardening, I am never lucky with mums and me thinks it was water. Simple but what a great tip!

  12. Thank you so much for these great tips on picking mums! I would love to have some by my front door, although sadly it gets no sunlight there and I doubt it will cool off enough to go out and buy mums anytime soon. But I loved looking at your pictures, they’re such pretty flowers!

  13. Good advice. That’s exactly how I buy mine and I bought mine 2 weeks ago. Good thing too is that mums do bloom a long time so they really seem like a good investment. I like setting them in different containers for a fun seasonal look. The rain has finally stopped and it’s only going to be around 65 today! Loveing it!

    1. Thanks, Liz! I love the cooler temps too. I still have lots I want to get done in the gardens. Happy gardening for a bit longer!

  14. Yup, you know your stuff girl! I’m always telling my friends not to buy the ones in full bloom. I just pinched some of my spent blooms off of my mums today. I’ve had them for a few weeks. Thanks for sharing your tips with SYC.

  15. Oh, I’m so glad to have these tips about Mums! I really haven’t known that much about them, even though they’re here in Garden Centers every year. I live in Alabama, where it is hot and humid and in the 90’s even now. I didn’t know mums liked 60 degree weather, or don’t like direct sun, or to be moist, although I do try to deadhead. I’m going to be doing as you suggest from now on b/c yes, I confess, we bought one the other day. I’ve planted them in the ground before too, b/c I hate for the money I spent on it to end up on the curb like I see so many do, but they really get much too leggy, even though I pinch them off. Cheapskate me, usually doesn’t buy them at all, but I succumbed this year.

  16. These are great tips! I think you get what you pay for too. I bought a gorgeous $3 mum that lasted a week. My $6 mums are still going strong!

  17. That’s such good advice about not buying mums too early. Here in Texas it will be late October before we might hope to see the sixties, but the stores get mums much earlier. I’ve learned the hard way to wait! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!

  18. I live in the AZ desert and have had very good luck with mums. We (meaning my hubby) built some raised beds around some trees in our front yard a couple of years ago. He added some very rich top soil with fertilizer and also added auto-irrigation. Early last Fall, we planted several of the 4″ pots of mums that absolutely exploded in size and retained their beauty until late June when the flowers turned dark, but the plants stayed green for awhile longer. I’m not very good about gardening when it’s 115 degrees, so the plants stayed that way until recently. I started trimming the mums way down to the ground where there is new growth coming in like crazy. I think your tips are great, but I think you also have to learn what works in your part of the country….experiment a little bit.

  19. Of all the flowers out there, chrysanthemums are probably my favorite Joanna. We’re very lucky here in South Africa. They’re one of those perennials that keep on giving and growing. They just survive on their own with a little bit off feeding and a dash of fertilizer for love. We cut ours down quiet a lot after they’ve flowered and they’ve become these gorgeous lush bushes of happy colors. Next time I go to the nursery I’ll keep your tip about looking for tight buds in mind. Sometimes I’m too impatient to see the flower

  20. SUCH great tips and none of these were ones I knew about — probably why ALL of the mums I buy . . . die a quick death. I have not bought any yet but I will definitely think about getting them later in the season and following your tips!

  21. Good tips. I pick out the mums with them beingmo mostly closed too. I enjoy all the different colors that are offered- so much fun! I’ve got two plantersin front of my garage that I always replant with mums. We’ve been war here but I hear a cold snap is coming in this week.

  22. Thank you for these tips.. II’ve had some luck saving mums by leaving them in the pots & storing them over winter. I stored them under an overhang against a south facing wall . I live zone 7 and this worked for me . I watered them very lightly 2 or 3 times until spring when I planted them in the ground.. One yellow one is in a small laundry tub & has been reblooming for five seasons.

    1. I would love to be able to do that. I do have a few mums in the ground that are hardy in my zone 4. Thanks for stopping by.

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