Learn tips for planting and growing beautiful, healthy garden mums.
Set your sights on planting mums to fill your landscape with dazzling fall color. Garden mums ignite floral fireworks in autumn settings, with sturdy blossoms in a host of seasonal colors. Best of all, these perennial bloomers bring an easy-care personality to the garden. They’re relatively undemanding and fuss-free. Keep reading for tips on growing mums.
Start with the right spot. Tuck garden mums into the proper condition, and they’ll thrive. When planting mums, select a sunny spot. The more sun mums receive, the more flowers they’ll produce. Garden mums in locations with less light tend to get floppy and need staking. Aim for six hours of sun minimum.
Soil should drain well. Growing mums, like many plants, becomes an exercise in soil improvement if you have heavy, poorly draining soil that contains a lot of clay. Work plenty of organic matter into planting beds in heavy soil. Even in soil that drains well, it’s a good idea to add organic matter. Garden mums crave good drainage.
Avoid overcrowding. Follow spacing recommendations on pot labels when you’re planting mums. These pretty fall flowers don’t deal well with overcrowding. They tend to have shallow roots and don’t compete well with other plants.
Keep mums moist. When growing mums, aim to keep soil moist enough to avoid leaf wilting. Because mums are shallow-rooted, they’re more sensitive to soil drying out. Avoid overwatering, though, or you’ll kill the plants.
Use mulch. Adding a mulch layer to soil helps maintain soil moisture and insulates a garden mum’s shallow root system. Aim for a 2-inch-thick layer, unless you have sandy soil or a garden where summers really sizzle. Then it’s okay to use up to 3 inches of mulch. A good mulch layer can also help protect plant crowns in winter.
Feed mums regularly. For established mums, fertilize in spring as new growth is emerging. Use a common landscape fertilizer with numbers like 5-10-10. If you’re planting mums in spring, fertilize using a product like 5-10-10. This is a common fertilizer and should be easy to find. If you’re planting mums in fall that you intend to yank and compost once frost hits, don’t fertilize at planting time with anything. If you’re planting mums in fall that you intend to overwinter, give plants a high-phosphorus fertilizer to promote strong root growth.
Tuck them in for winter. After a killing frost, clip faded flowers on established garden mums. Don’t trim any stems, though. They help protect the crown through winter. Plan to remove those stems in spring. Pile 3 to 4 inches of mulch over the entire plant, working it down between the stems. Use something like straw or shredded bark that won’t pack down. In spring, remove mulch as new growth begins.
Divide plants. Dig perennial garden mums every few years and divide them to keep growth strong and vigorous. To avoid diminishing the flower show, divide mums in early spring, just as new shoots appear.