As Pennsylvania’s color palette shifts from bright summer greens and pastels to the rich reds, oranges, browns and yellows of fall, many gardeners take time to intentionally bring fall colors into their home gardens. When it comes to fall gardens, mums bring an instant pop of fall color. They also bring a few questions about the right way to care for them. Because of that, we asked Liz Magnuson, the Wolff’s Apple House plant manager from 2019 to 2021, to answer some of your frequently asked questions about these beautiful fall flowers.
1. Is it best to plant them, or keep them in pots?
Liz says this is “a personal preference question.” She cautions, though, that because mums are not guaranteed perennials, your labor spent planting them in the ground might not be worthwhile. Mums are great for “bright pops full of color.” If you are hosting an event and want to create a pleasant fall landscape, mums are the answer. They provide instant color. But they’re a “one and done” thing and won’t last long after the event.
(To get inspired for your fall landscape, be sure to read our tips on how to create a beautiful fall display.)
2. How often should mums get water?
Every 2-3 days. (See our tips for proper plant watering.)
3. Should I trim or prune them?
Liz is very adamant about this, and her answer is a resounding no. “If you shear it like a sheep,” she says, “it’s just going to be a green mum underneath.” There isn’t a second layer below.
4. Will they bloom again, later in the season?
No. Different types of mums are early, middle or later bloomers, and they will stick to their timeline.
5. How long will they last?
Mums purchased when they are at full bloom will last at least one week, and up to two weeks if the weather is cool (but not cold).
6. What does it mean that they are not a “guaranteed perennial”? Is there a chance that they could come back next year?
There is no guarantee that mums that are planted in the ground will return and bloom again the following year. However, Liz says you can give them a fighting chance by:
- Insulating them from cold. Plant them near the foundation of your house, or give them southern exposure.
- Feeding them with compost. They’re “heavy feeders,” says Liz, so adding compost to the soil increases the chance they will bloom next year.
Since mums don’t last forever, it’s a good idea to include them as part of your fall landscaping, but not to depend on them exclusively. That way, you can have consistent fall color without having to keep replacing your mums. As part of your fall landscape, Liz recommends:
Celosia – these will stay in bloom “from August until the cold kills them,” she says.
Pansies – these are frost-resistant.
Decorative cabbage and kale – these are also frost-resistant.
Ornamental peppers – these will last for a long time. Individual peppers may dry out, but you can pick off dried peppers one by one and the plant will continue to thrive.
7. Are mums native?
No, they are not, but a similar plant, the aster, is. However, asters don’t come in bright fall colors. They tend to be blue, purple, pink or white. However, the benefit of these is that they do come back every year!
Mums have been hybridized so that they are “beautiful, spherical, bright-colored” plants, says Liz. They’ve been modified from hardy mums, which are not as pretty and very expensive for Wolff’s to get. So instead of hardy mums, we offer customers asters. Hybridized mums are “so shiny and pretty” but this takes away from their ability to withstand the cold.
8. How much cold can they handle?
Mums are frost tolerant, but not frost resistant. They can generally handle nighttime temperatures down to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. A drop down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit will kill them.
Mums make it feel like fall in your garden, on your front porch or inside your home. Head to our garden center to be surrounded by this fall beauty, and to get personalized advice on how to create a lush, inviting fall display that is well suited for your environment. We love to answer your questions, so find one of our friendly staff members or stop by our Plant Information House!