Mums the word for fall containers

If the calendar says fall, it is a sure bet garden centers are filled with mums.  

This fall staple is colorful, easy to grow, and plays well with other plants in gardens and containers. 

Chrysanthemums are generally put into two categories – garden hardy and those bred to be used as annuals for the fall season. Both have a place in your fall designs.

Hardy mums (Chrysanthemum x morifolium) are perennials that will live in your garden year after year. Spring planting gives them time to form a strong root system that will help them survive the winters. If planting in the fall, aim to have them in the ground six weeks before the first heavy frost. 

Mums like sunshine. Pick a spot where they will have at least 6 hours of sun each day. Because they have a shallow root system, they want to be regularly watered; well-draining soil will keep the roots dry and prevent root rot. The sunshine will prevent fungus from attacking the leaves.

If planted in the spring, sunny days and cool nights may trick them into blooming early. I suggest pinching the buds in the spring and through early July. This will let the plant give all of its energy to forming healthy stems, resulting in more flowers in the fall.

As the garden mums age, they are easy to divide. Just dig them up and space new plants 10-12 inches apart. Apply mulch to keep the roots warm and protect them from drying out. 

Expect mums to reach 1-2 feet tall and about 2 feet wide. Some heirloom varieties may reach three feet tall. In the landscape, plant swaths of one color for major impact. 

Florist mums or annual mums (Chrysanthemum multicaule) are the potted containers that are available in grocery stores, drugstores, and even gas stations. These make good hostess gifts and work well in arrangements. For hardy mums, check with your local garden centers.

The leaves on annual plants are thinner and not as deeply notched as hardy mums. Just like hardy mums, they come in a variety of colors, such as red, plum, orange, white, and yellow. My favorite is yellow.

I use them in containers on the front porch, back porch, and containers around the garden. I mix them with asters, coral bells, and other fall-blooming flowers to usher in the new season.   

When buying them, I choose plants with tight buds. The big beautiful plants are tempting, but I want them to bloom at the little house on the big hill, not in the store. 

Sometimes I can find a six-pack of smaller chrysanthemums plants. They are perfect for adding to containers and work well for centerpiece arrangements when a large plant would be overwhelming. Remember, if using them indoors, they will need water, so your container must be something that allows you to water the plants and protect your indoor surfaces.

Mums are known as “short day plants” meaning they come into their glory as the days shorten and the nights get longer. Short days and cool nights are signs that fall is here. Using chrysanthemums in our plantings is an easy way to add color and transition your garden and garden inspired designs into fall.