The Ultimate Guide: How to Keep Mums Alive and Thriving

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Are you ready to elevate your autumn decor with the vibrant hues of fall mums? These flowers come in an array of colors and varieties, making them a perfect addition to your outdoor fall decorating palette.

Enjoy the blooms for months to come once you learn the secrets of keeping mums alive.

Here are my 5 top tips for keeping mums alive from deadheading to frost protection.

tips for how to keep mums alive wtih red and orange mums and heirloom pumpkins on a front porch

What Are Mums?

Mums, short for chrysanthemums, are a popular perennial flower known for their dainty, stunning, and plentiful blooms. Mums come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes which make them a gardener’s favorite. Mum plants often refer to two categories: garden mums and florist mums.

Mums are so well loved, in part, because they thrive in different climates and weather conditions. Although they are often associated with autumn, mums bloom throughout the year.

How to Care for Mums in the Fall

I love decorating with fall mums, especially on my front porch. While everything else is turning brown mums retain their cheerfulness to celebrate the fall season. The fall flowers last a long time and look gorgeous in pots and landscapes. Like most things in life, a little effort will keep your mums looking their best all season long!

Woman holding a mum rootball to repot it after buying

Pot Mums in the Correct Pot

Growing mums from seed is possible, but they are relatively inexpensive to buy in pots at your local garden center. However, most of the store-bought mums are already rootbound. Once you get them home, put them in a bigger pot.

Consider the size of the root balls and your local weather when choosing a pot. Get one that is twice the size of the plant to allow room for growth. Make sure there are drainage holes. Waterlogged mums suffer from root rot which will eventually kill your plant.

Choose a pot made from durable materials. Mums are especially popular in the fall and are exposed to both heat and chilly fall weather. Ceramic and terracotta pots are excellent choices.

A well-chosen pot and soil provide the right environment for your mum to thrive all growing season.

How Long Do Potted Mums Last?

Potted mums can live from several weeks to potentially several years. Your care routines, growing zone, and weather all impact their lifespan. Following the tips in this post will help you extend the full bloom season.

Planted mums are generally treated as perennials and can last for years in your garden beds. They are quite hardy but will bloom best when they receive proper care.

orange and yellow potted mums with guords on the front porch

Best Location for Potted Mums

Location, Location, Location! It’s true for real estate and it’s true for keeping mums alive, too. Mums need at least six hours of sunlight a day (full sun). Place your pots of mums in an area with plenty of direct sunlight to encourage growth and colorful blooms.

As the seasons change, the days become shorter. A spot that was sunny in the summer may no longer be sunny. You may need to move your fall mums to a new location in the fall to capture the sun.

Mums are hardy, but they do appreciate protection as well. Choose a location with some shelter from strong winds or extreme temperature changes.

If you have pets, keep your mums away from their favorite sleeping spots. Mums are wonderful plants, but they are considered toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Keep your pots in an accessible location. They are low-maintenance but that doesn’t mean no maintenance. Place the mums where you can easily reach them for deadheading and watering.

Also, take into account drainage. Proper drainage is crucial to prevent waterlogged soil, which can lead to root rot. Elevate your pots slightly or use pot feet to ensure water can escape freely from the bottom.

With the right location, your potted mums will thrive and provide a beautiful display of fall color.

a wilting mum with spent blooms that needs watered and deadheaded

How Much Water do Mums Need?

It’s very important not to let your mums dry out or they might just die on you like the one above. Then again, it’s also important not to over water them either.

How much water is enough but not too much? That’s the million dollar question. Make sure the dirt stays moist, but not drenched. 😉

Overwatering leaves extra moisture in the soil which leads to root rot and eventual death of your mums. Make sure your pot has good drainage holes. Use pot feet to keep the pot itself off the ground for extra drainage if needed.

Underwatering leads to stress and wilting. The mum will revive once watered, but blooms might be delayed or won’t appear at all.

Check the pot’s moisture level regularly. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil; if it feels dry at that depth, it’s time to water. Water the base of the plant rather than the foliage to prevent any fungal diseases.

Monitor your potted mums frequently and adjust watering schedules accordingly. The appropriate amount of water is one of the very best ways to keep your mums alive and blooming.

Do Mums Need Deadheading?

a freshly deadheaded purple mum with new blooms underneath

Ah, deadheading. . . [insert groan here]. I know deadheading is no fun. If you want your mum to re-flower – you have to get rid of the spent blooms first. This encourages the mums to put energy into more flowers rather than producing seeds.

Deadheaded mums also just look better. No one wants to see dried up old flowers in a pot. Dead flowers also attract garden pests. Make deadheading a part of your regular gardening routine and soon you’ll stop dreading it.

Grab a trusty pair of snips and cut away while listening to your favorite music or chatting with a dear friend. Or just use your fingers. Honestly, I think the easiest way to deadhead mums is just to pinch off the dead flowers with my fingers.

Snip the dead flowers all the way down to the nearest set of healthy leaves or buds. Make the cut at a slight angle if possible. Be careful when deadheading mums as the new baby buds might be lurking under the dead flowers.

I try to deadhead my mums every 1-2 weeks to keep them looking good. It’s a simple step that really pays off with beautiful flowering mums.

Will Frost Kill Mums?

Mums are hardy but, like any plant, will eventually succumb to frosty weather. Although a simple frost won’t kill them, it’s best to protect them from serious bouts of cold.

Watch the forecast for any extended cold periods. Bring your potted mums in overnight to avoid hard freezes. Return them to their sunny location outside once the temperature is above freezing.

If your mums have to be inside for a few days, place them near a window. Natural light is important for mums! Continue monitoring the water.

Cover your mums with a thick blanket to keep some of the heat around the plants during a lighter frost.

Protecting mums from the cold will lengthen their lifespan, ensuring you have blooms long into the autumn.

a closeup of fall porch decor with red, white, orange mums and a variety of pumpkins

How to Clean Up Mums for Winter

Now that you extended the life of your mums, it’s time to clean them up for the winter. This step is important as it gives them a head start to health the following growing season.

Allow the mums to naturally shed their leaves and to turn brown. Once they are dormant, cut the stalks 2-4 inches above the soil. This removes the dead parts of the plant and gives lots of room for new shoots in the spring.

Add a layer of mulch at the base of your plant for added protection. It also helps retain moisture and protect the roots.

To keep mums alive and thriving follow those 5 strategies choose a sunny location and a large pot. Monitor moisture levels throughout the blooming season and deadhead to keep the flowers coming. Protect them against deep freezes and frosty conditions.

Mums are a dazzling addition to fall decor. Follow these guidelines to not only keep your mums alive but to keep them vibrant and healthy as well. What are your favorite colors of mums or ways to decorate with mums? Be sure to share your tips, too!

Tips for decorating for fall

How to start a fall vegetable garden now

How to cover a raised garden bed to extend your growing season

15 Fall gardening tasks 

Types of heirloom garlic to plant this fall

Fun ways to decorate pumpkins without carving

pinterest graphic with fall mums and pumpkins on a front porch with tips to keep mums alive

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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