Why Cold-Hardy Mums Are the Best Fall Flowers (Plus, Planting and Care Tips)

Elisa Greenberg
Written by Elisa Greenberg
Updated September 7, 2022
fall mums
Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Harriman


  • Mums are available in garden or florist varieties.

  • Mums provide excellent color and abundant growth during cooler months.

  • You can choose from dozens of styles and classes of fall mums.

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When summer winds down, few things make us more ready for fall than spiced lattes, cardigans, and chrysanthemums—more commonly known as mums. Mums are the perfect fall flower because they’re hardy and easy to grow, plant, and pot. They also come in a wide array of colors, making them a favorite for autumn porch decor. 

Why Mums Are the Best Flowers for Fall

Mum flowers prefer cooler temperatures, and the hardiest mums can survive at 20 degrees below zero. They bloom beautifully during autumn, when summer flowers dwindle, and keep their shape and color before the first winter frost. Mums also work well with other shrubs, flowers, or conifers, giving you free rein to create a lush, abundant landscape.

When to Buy Fall Mums

It’s best to buy fall mums in early autumn (think late September or early October) when temperatures aren’t in the 90s or 100s. If you plant them in your garden, they may not survive the winter, so you’ll want to re-pot them and keep them in a cool environment until the spring.

You can also purchase fall mums in the spring after the winter’s frost has cleared. If you plant mums in the spring, they have a chance to acclimate to your garden in the summer and produce beautiful blooms in the fall.

Everything to Know About Fall Mums

There are two forms of mums, garden and florist. The main difference is the hardiness—with the garden being a perennial (year-round) and the florist being an annual (seasonal).

Because they are a popular flower, fall mums are available in a variety of species, colors, shapes, and sizes. 


You’ll find mums in a wide range of colors, including vibrant shades of orange, red, yellow, white, bronze, gold, purple, lavender, pink, and multi.

The best part about fall mums is that you can create any exciting color pattern you like. You can go rich and dark for autumn or bright to add a pop of color to a changing seasonal landscape.


While there are dozens of species to choose from, the recommended varieties include:

  • Clara Curtis: resembles a daisy with its pink petals and golden centers. 

  • Homecoming: peach-colored blooms that grow on 3-foot stalks.

  • Ruby mound: large, ruby-red double-petaled flowers.

  • Fireglow bronze: golden, double-petaled on an 18-inch bush. 

  • Coral charm: bright peach, purple, and pink petals.

  • Fireflash: fiery yellow and orange petals.

  • Kimie: golden yellow petals encapsulate a round center disc.

  • Seatons toffee: resembles a burst of sparklers on the Fourth of July.


You can expect your mum plant to grow 1 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. However, flower sizes can be as small as a quarter and as large as a serving dish. 


Fall mums come in many unique types, such as:

  • Anemone: 4-inch daisy-like bloom with long, tubular petals with a small button center.

  • Button: small, tightly-packed petals that resemble a small pompom.

  • Cushion: colorful petals that form mounds of blooms.

  • Decorative: 5-inch and larger flat petals that continue getting longer from the center out.

  • Single and semi-double: look like daisies with two rows of petals around a small center. Smaller in size, these only grow 1–3 feet, making them ideal for small gardens.

  • Quill: long, spiky tubular petals that open into a downward spoon shape.

  • Pompom: smaller, inward curved blooms that run 1–4 inches. Used in many floral arrangements.

  • Spoon: small, ladle-shaped petals surround a button center. 

  • Spider: petals resemble spider legs. Features long, spiky blooms in multi-colors.

  • Reflex: feather-like flat petals with a downward curve.

  • Incurve: comes in three styles: irregular, intermediate, and regular. Features florets that curve into the center of the flower from 4–8 inches.

  • Thistle: exotic looking with long, thin petals that twist up and around the stem.

12 types of mums, including spoon, button, reflex, and pom pom
Photo: yuanyuan yan/ Moment/ Getty Images


Fall mums are popular because of their adaptability. You can plant them in a garden bed, pot them in containers, and cut them to make fresh flower bouquets. 

You can also decorate your interior or exterior for fall festivities such as Halloween or Thanksgiving. Lush mum plants make beautiful tablescapes and front porch flora.


Mums can live indoors and outdoors for at least three to four years, providing season after season of gorgeous floral landscaping. 

Follow these care tips for mums: 

  • Sunlight: Mums need six hours of natural sunlight per day.

  • Space: Keep them 18–36 inches apart in soil and use a 12-inch container for indoor blooms to give them space to breathe.

  • Mulch: Plant your mums in compost-rich soil.

  • Fertilizer: Add fresh fertilizer monthly with a 10–10–10 balance until flower buds start forming. Use 4–6 inches of high-phosphorus fertilizer during the winter to stimulate root growth.

  • Drainage: Provide plenty of drainage in your soil.

  • Water: Water mums daily with 6–8 inches of soaking during hot summer months.

  • Possible issues: Inspect your mums for leaf spots, rust, wilt, powdery mildew, bacterial blighting, and mosaic viruses. You can treat these diseases through pruning, clipping, discarding, or applying a foliar spray.

  • Prune: Pinch the tops of mum plants around 1 inch several times during the growing season.

You’ll want to stop pruning and pinching your mums in early July, so they have a chance to bloom in the fall. Also, to ensure full growth, you should divide, trim, and re-plant any large mums every couple of years so they have plenty of free garden space.

How to Grow Fall Mums

mum flowers
Photo: Courtesy of Christina R.

Depending on the type of fall mum you’re looking for, you can find garden mums at a nursery or garden center near you and decorative florist mums at your local grocery store. It’s best to choose mums that haven’t fully bloomed yet so that you can enjoy them for longer. 

You should plant perennial garden mums in early spring or early fall, giving yourself enough time before winter frost sets in. 

Finally, you can take annual florist mums and plant them in your garden for a pop of color in late summer or early fall. But you’ll need to remove them from the ground and add them to an indoor pot before it gets too cold outside.

Planting Mum Seeds

You can also buy mum seeds and plant them in your garden or a container. However, due to the nature of mums, you never know what you’ll get until they bloom.

You can plant mum seeds indoors in early fall and transplant them to your garden the following fall, or plant them in your garden beds in early spring, after the last frost. Be sure to apply plenty of fresh mulch and water.

Should I Hire a Landscaping Pro?

Fall mums are easy to buy, plant, and maintain, and DIY-savvy homeowners will have no problem keeping their mums in good shape.

But if you lack the time or aren’t sure how to space out your fall mums, you might benefit from hiring a landscaper or gardener near you. You can expect to pay $40 to $80 per hour for this project.


How hardy are fall mums?

According to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, mums grow in zones 5 to 9, with some thriving in zone 4. These zones cover much of the United States, except the far northeast and the upper midwest, where frigid temperatures make it hard for mums to survive the winter.

How do I maintain my fall mums during the winter?

While garden mums are hardy, you should continue caring for them during winter to ensure a spring bloom. 

  • Pinch off dead blooms.

  • Use up to 4 inches of organic mulch with straw or shredded hardwood around plants.

  • Clip away any dead leaves or debris.

Are fall mums toxic?

Mums can be toxic to cats and dogs if they ingest large amounts. Cats are more sensitive to mums and show allergic dermatitis if they touch them. So, you’ll want to ensure you keep your potted and planted mums away from any curious furry friends.

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