Need a frost-tolerant plant that actually prefers autumn weather? Mum's the word.
Trees explode with color as fall arrives. Can you say the same about your garden?
As the days grow shorter and temperatures drop, most flowers fade. But not chrysanthemums, popularly known as “mums.” They actually prefer autumn weather.
“Mums are naturally a fall-blooming flower so they’re physically responsive to short days,” says Toomie Farris, president and CEO of highly rated McNamara Florist in Indianapolis. “They will tolerate frost so they have extended longevity this time of year as opposed to other plants.”
Farris says mums originally gained popularity as a fall flower because they were one of the only options available. But even as it's become easy to buy exotic flowers at the supermarket all year round, tradition holds and mums are still the go-to fall flower.
Choosing and planting mums in your flowerbed
Mums bloom in yellow, orange, pink, bronze, white, brown and burgundy, making them the perfect addition to landscaping, festive centerpieces or front-porch displays of pumpkins and corn husks.
Farris says there are two main types of mums:
“Florist” or “greenhouse” mums, which have larger flowers and are ideal for indoor planting and floral arrangements. They should bloom for 2 to 4 weeks with good lighting and water.“Outdoor” or “garden” mums, which are intended for outside planting and should bloom for 6 to 8 weeks. The University of Illinois Extension says outdoor mums should overwinter as perennials in zones 5 to 9. Check the USDA Hardiness Zone Map to see if mums will overwinter in your area.
If you buy mums this fall, Farris says, count on them flowering through Thanksgiving. “Buy them when you start to see color in the buds,” he says, because blooms are likely to last longer than if you purchase a mature plant.
Mums prefer well-drained soil. Water only when the soil feels dry to the touch, but don’t wait so long that the flowers wilt. Never allow mums to sit in standing water.
For indoor planting, place pots near an uncovered window. Plant outdoor mums in areas that receive full sun, but keep them away from streetlights or other outdoor lighting because they depend on long nights to bloom.
To make your own fall-themed flower arrangement, Farris suggests pairing mums with orange and yellow lilies, bittersweet and various types of wheat and grasses.