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Mums are one of the first plants gardeners turn to for fall color, and it is easy to see why. These durable plants flower for weeks on end, and look incredible in pots, containers, and baskets,
But they can also be amazing when planted in the landscape. Even better, most mum varieties are more than tough enough to withstand the cold of winter, coming back to provide gorgeous autumn color year after year.
A Look At Hardy Mums
Although many folks consider mums (chrysanthemums) to be an autumn flowering annual, the majority of varieties for sale are actually quite hardy. Because of this, with just a bit of extra care, they can be grown quite easily as a perennial.
It is important to note that not all mums can be overwintered and kept from year to year. There are actually two distinct types of mums, hardy and floral. In short, hardy mums can be kept, while floral mums cannot be saved.
The difference between the two is mainly in their roots. Floral mums have very shallow roots. Because of this, they simply can’t stand up to the rigors of wintertime when planted outside. The shallow roots quickly freeze, and the plant dies off in the process.
Hardy mums on the other hand have a much deeper root system. Hardy mums often referred to as garden mums can survive the perils of winter more easily.
In fact, hardy mums can usually overwinter successfully all the way into Growing Zone 5. Especially when just a little extra attention is given in late fall to help protect them through winter.
Selecting The Right Mums To Save
With all of that said, if you want to overwinter and save your mums, start by making sure to purchase hardy or garden mums, and not the floral mum variety.
Most nurseries and garden centers will have plants clearly marked. If not, as a rule of thumb, plants with smaller, more compact foliage and tightly wound blooms tend to be floral. Mums with larger stems, foliage, and blooms are most likely hardy.
Initial Fall Care – How To Overwinter Mums
Mums that are purchased in the fall need special protection to make it through their first winter. Leaving first-year pots outdoors, even when they are labeled as “hardy” will most likely result in a deceased plant coming next spring.
Although mums can be taken out of their pots for planting directly into the landscape in late fall, for first-year plants, it usually will result in plant failure. Even with heavy mulching, plants simply can’t survive.
Unfortunately, by planting in late autumn, the mums simply don’t have enough time to establish firm roots in the soil. Because of this, the constant thawing and freezing will take its toll.
Bringing Plants Indoors – How To Overwinter Mums
For first-year plants, the best method for success is to overwinter your mums indoors. It is extremely important to bring your mums inside before the first freeze occurs. As they sit in a pot or container, a single hard freeze can be enough to kill off the roots.
Before bringing your mum indoors, first, remove all of the spent blooms and flowering blooms that might be remaining. Not only can they create a mess indoors as they fall off, but this also helps the plant conserve energy for next year. A quick clipping with a good pair of hedge shears will make fast work of cutting off the blooms.
When bringing indoors, select a cool location that receives little light. A cool, dark basement or garage works great for this purpose. If not available, select the coolest, darkest room of the house.
By bringing the plant indoors, it allows the mum to go dormant, but not risk freezing out. And then as spring rolls around, you can safely plant the mums into the landscape.