Did you know that your fall mums are actually perennials? Follow these tips to grow mums as perennials so you can enjoy their blooms year after year!

 

Without a doubt, mums are one of my favorite flowers! I’ve always held a special place in my heart. Growing up, my own “mum” would give me a mum on my September birthday each year. Now that I’m an adult, I buy myself a few each year as a little birthday gift! 

Mums are one of the latest blooming flowers and will bloom until a hard frost makes them die back. They come in a huge range of varieties and colors, making them a fantastic way to add a pop of color to any porch, patio or garden in the fall. Plus, they provide some vital food for pollinators after a lot of other flowers have stopped blooming. 

6 pots of mums set on concrete steps. The top row has 3 large mums in full bloom. The lower set has 4 smaller mums with lots of unopened buds.

Mums are perennials… kind of! 

Mums are usually very affordable and widely available at garden centers starting in September. Because of this, they make excellent container plants. But what many people don’t realize is that mums can actually be grown in the ground as perennials! 

That’s right! Those mums will come back year after year full of fall blooms! They grow so well, in fact, you will probably even need to separate your mum plants after a few years of growth!  

But, there’s a catch! Mums can be grown as perennials… under the correct conditions! 

For years though, I would buy mums, keep them in their pots and then plant them in the ground at the end of the season. And I never could figure out why they wouldn’t pop up again in the spring! It wasn’t until a few years ago that I mastered how to grow mums as perennials! 

You see, mums are perennials, but because of the late season when we plant them and their shallow root system, a lot of them just don’t make it through the winter. Luckily, we can easily avoid this by following a few tested tactics! 
 

colorful mums sitting next to each other. There are purple and dark maroon mums in full bloom

How to Grow Mums as Perennials: 

Buy the right variety 

When picking out your mums, look for mums that are labeled “garden mum” or “hardy mum”. These two terms are interchangeable in the world of mums and they both indicate perennial mums. Hardy mums are usually able to be grown as perennials in USDA zones 4-9 under the correct conditions. 

The majority of mums that you see in the fall at the garden center will be hardy mums or garden mums. By comparison, there are some annual varieties that are mostly sold at florist shops as cut flower chrysanthemums. 

There is also a hybrid mum (Chrysanthemum x hybrida) which is bred specifically to be a cold hardy perennial. These mums were developed by the University of Minnesota so you know that they can tolerate some cold winters! More about them here.  

A hand holds a garden plant tag that reads: Sundance Yellow, Garden Mum'

Purchase and plant mums as early in the season as possible 

If you want to grow your mums as perennials, it’s important to get them in the ground as early as possible! Most garden centers bring out mums in early September. For most regions, this is the ideal time to snap them up and get them planted! 

Planting your mums early in the season allows the plants to have time to develop their root systems before they are killed by frost. And a strong root system is the key to getting your mums to return year after year!  

If you live in a cooler zone, or if you want to ensure your mum’s success, you may want to consider purchasing and planting mums in the spring. They may be harder to find, but planting early allows them plenty of time to establish strong roots before the end of the growing season! 

A hand holding a mum in a nursery pot in front of other blooming mums. The mum being held has lots of unopened blossom buds.

Purchase healthy mums  

When picking out your mums, it can be tempting to grab the plant with the biggest, brightest flowers. But a wiser pick may actually be the smaller plant with dark, healthy foliage and young, tight buds. These younger plants tend to transplant better than those that are already in full bloom. Younger plants are also less likely to be root-bound.  

Plant them right 

It’s vital to plant your mums in the correct spot if you want them to come back next year. Mums are full sun plants, meaning that they need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day to produce those big beautiful blooms. 

Mums also appreciate moist, well-drained soil. If you have compact soil, you may want to amend it with some mulch or compost before planting to increase drainage. I also like to add several handfuls of worm castings to my planting holes to provide some gentle nutrients for the plant as it gets established.  

Because mums have a shallow root system, I like to sprinkle some mycorrhizal fungi in the hole or on the root ball when I plant them. This special fungi will help the plant roots form connections with the soil microorganisms so that the plant can better uptake soil nutrients.  

A hand holds a package of Plant Success Organic Solutions Mycorrhizae in front of pots of flowering mums
 

Snip off some buds 

For mums that I want to establish as perennials in my garden, I like to trim off the majority of the flowers/buds after I plant it. This allows the plant to focus on root growth and development rather than putting its energy into flowering and producing seeds during the its first season. While it is a bummer to not get a huge amount of flowers the first year, I believe it’s worth it to help ensure the mums will flower for many years to come!

A hand holding garden snips and cutting bright yellow mum blossoms

Protect over winter 

Mums are frost-sensitive perennials. This means that the green foliage dies back after a hard frost, but the plant will regrow the new foliage the next year. Because mums have shallow roots, it’s vital to give them some protection over winter! This keeps their root system from being damaged by the cold. 

In the fall, before the first hard frost, apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of your mums. This can be compost, bark chips or leaf mulch. Once the green foliage has died back, you can give them some extra insulation by mulching or laying evergreen branches over the top of the root ball. Next spring, pull the mulch back from the plant once danger of frost has passed. 

A small green mum with blossoms removed, planted in the ground, surrounded by mulch

Have you grown mums as perennials? Share your tips with us in the comments!