It is not wistful to ask questions like, ‘Do mums come back every year?’, ‘How do I save my mums for next year?’ and ‘Can my mums be overwintered?’ A positive answer opens up exciting possibilities in terms of fall expenses. Imagine redirecting the savings on mums to other projects!
Tossing away mums after the blooming season is something most people do as part of their winter cleanup. This is the default treatment annuals get that shouldn’t be extended to beautiful perennials like mums. One wistful thought that must surely linger at the back of their minds, while tossing the ‘spent’ mums in the trash, is the wish that mums come back every year so they wouldn’t have to start from scratch next fall.
The good news is, you can save your mums over winter and bring them back every year. In this article, we will show you how to winterize your mums. And it gets better too; the process isn’t difficult whether the mums are cultivated indoors in pots or outdoors in the garden.
Do Mums Come Back Every Year?
Officially known as Chrysanthemums, mums are usually treated as annuals. But these late-season bloomers can be cultivated as perennials in Zones 7 – 9 with the right care. Some cultivars can even be grown as hardy perennials a couple of zones further down. That’s a fancy way of saying they can be made to come back every year under the right conditions even from zone 5.
Basically, if you can get the right species, plant at the right time, and provide the ideal winter, spring, and growing season care, you are almost certainly guaranteed to bring them back successfully.
For newbies, it might seem like a lot to unpack. Not to worry though, we would break down the process and you’d be left wondering what the fuss what all about after going reading through.
Understanding the Common Types of Mums
In terms of getting your mums to come back year after year, one of the critical factors to keep in mind is the type of mums you are getting from your local garden center or nursery.
There are basically two types:
Floral mums – These are typically indoor mums with largely underdeveloped roots hardy in zones 7 – 9. At the best of times, the plants lack the requisite energy to survive the winter cold.
Most mums sold in stores already in full bloom in late fall (September and October mostly) are floral mums. These are regarded as annuals and usually don’t survive the winter.
One of the easiest ways to identify them in stores is by their size. Florist mums are smaller than garden mums and their pots or planters tend to be smaller too
Garden mums – Also known as hardy mums (hardiness zones 4 – 9), they are the true perennials of the Chrysanthemums family. Unlike floral mums, the roots are highly developed while the plant packs enough energy to overwinter successfully if given the right care.
In garden centers, hardy or garden mums usually bear a label on them. To be sure what kind of mums you are getting, simply inquire from the staff.
Side by side, one clear difference between garden mums and floral mums is the size of the blooms. Garden mums have larger blooms. And they are also grown in bigger pots.
While the generally accepted practice is that floral mums can’t be made to come back year after year, that narrative can be changed. You can actually overwinter floral mums if you plant them early. but it might require a bit more work to get your floral mums to overwinter successfully.
Planting them early implies you need to get them in early fall. Ordering them online is the best way to go about it. This is because garden centers start sales of floral mums deep into the fall.
Now you know about the types of mums and how to identify them., let’s get into the main business of making your mums come back after winter.
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How to Overwinter Mums and Make them Come Back Every Year
As well as making sure you have the right mums for your hardiness zone, the time the mums are planted and first season care are vital components in ensuring they come back next spring and subsequent years.
Plant them as early as possible in the growing season or in spring if you can order garden mums online. Mums planted in late fall won’t have enough time to grow established roots before winter arrives. This is because they used up most of their energy for flower production rather than strong roots.
This is worth repeating became it is very critical in successfully keeping mums alive over the winter. The best time to plant mums, if you want them to come back the following year is very early in the growing season.
So your best bet is to order for mums online to be delivered in spring and plant them as soon as possible after they arrive. In warm climates, you can get away with planting them in fall. But you’d be cutting it close when it comes to successful overwintering them.
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Caring For New Mums
A vital key to getting your mums to survive the winter and come back the following is how well they are cared for in the first season.
Simply follow the tips below to get them a good grounding for the task ahead:
- After getting your new mums, keep the potted mums in a bright area indoors away from direct sunlight.
- Expose them to about 5 hours of direct sunlight daily. The morning sun is better
- Use high-quality, well-draining potting soil specifically made for perennial. You can get the soil in garden centers
- Water regularly to keep the soil consistently moist. Avoid over-watering and soggy soil.
- You also want to trim off blooms that are faded or dying to help the plant focus energy on establishing roots and stronger stems.
- There is no need to fertilize. The care your mums received in the garden center or nursery plus the nutrients in the potting mix are enough.
Winter Care for Mums
How to care for mums in the winter so they come back the next season is mostly about protecting the roots from frost. Winter frost is more deadly to roots than to the plant above ground. In soils that retain too much water, ice forms around the roots effectively killing the cells in the roots. That is why it is very vital to use well-draining soil especially if you want your mums to come back every year.
That said, there is a bit of difference between caring for potted mums in winter and winter care for mums planted in garden beds.
Tips for Overwintering potted mums
- Prune the stems down to about 3 inches about the ground with the onset of frost or winter.
- Move the pot pots to a location that is warm or away from the biting cold to protect the roots. The basement or garage would be great if both places are relatively warm.
- Water the mums lightly about once a month. You can also water them whenever the soil is very dry.
- Your mums would be okay until spring when the weather is warmer and you can take them out.
Tips for Overwintering Garden Bed Mums
The ideal scenario, as mentioned earlier, is to plant your garden mums in spring so they can start growing roots early. They have a better chance of overcoming the damaging cold winter days with established roots.
That said, floral mums bought in early fall can survive if they are planted immediately. That gives the plants enough time to set in matured roots before winter.
Keep in mind though that the chances would be improved further with mums that have plenty of buds rather than blooms.
Shelter to protect the mums in gardens is also important. So you might want to plant them in a very protected or sheltered part of the garden. This helps to protect the plants from the winter winds.
Other tips to keep in mind include:
- Allow the foliage to die naturally on the plant. They would fall off after turning brown in the frosty conditions.
- Prune the stems. Leave about 3 inches above the ground.
- A heavy layer of straw or leaf mulch on the soil would be awesome. This helps to keep the soil warm. Mulching also helps to stabilize the soil temperature to prevent the damaging effects of thawing and refreezing due to temperature fluctuations.
Doing all the above is all that is needed to help prepare your mums for next spring.
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Bringing Back Your Overwinterized Mums in Spring
Mums spring care is the final stage of the process of ensuring that mums come back every year. Because the heavy lifting, in winter, is already over, you don’t have much to do from this point on.
With the onset of spring, simply replant the potted mums in the garden just like you would any perennial plant. Then follow simply the standard mum care routine in terms of watering, pruning fading blooms, and pinching leggy stalks. But you have to stop pinching just before the plants start to flower.
For the garden mums, there isn’t much to do when spring rolls in. Start watering the plant as normal and expect the reward of new foliage in a few weeks. You could also prune and pinch as usual.
And to make sure they get all the help needed to thrive, you can mix compost into the soil (for potted or garden mums). Using slow-release granular plant food is a good option in the absence of compost
In summary, do mums come back every year? The answer is yes, mums can come back every year with the right winter and spring care. Mums are hardy perennials which makes it very unusual that most folks thrash their mums after the blooming period effectively treating them as annuals.
As well as the proper mums spring and winter care routine, planting mums early in spring or as soon as you get them in early fall is key to successfully overwintering them. Also, getting the right mums for your region would improve the chances of ensuring they come back every year.