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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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