One of the problems we see a lot with the mums that are grown and then planted in the fall, is that they don’t survive the winter – they don’t come back. And there are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, a lot of mums are bred to show very big flowers with lots of color. Unfortunately, when that happens, they’ve lost some of their winter vigor.
Another problem with the garden mums is that their root systems aren’t very strong and winter hardy. So, if we buy these mums in full color in the fall, and plant them, a lot of times they’ll die out over the winter months.
There are several ways you can help to get these mums to live through the winter. First, make sure that you keep them well watered through the fall and into the winter. And also apply a light layer of mulch to help insulate and protect the root system.
But, if you really want mums to become a perennial, that comes back year after year, Extension’s recommendation would be to defer buying these beautiful mums in the fall. Instead, buy small cuttings in the spring. Plant them in the spring, and allow them to develop a strong root system over the summer months, that then bloom naturally in the garden. Then, when fall comes, you’ve got the color, and you also have a plant that is well-rooted, durable, and is more likely to survive the winter.
A lot of times, people will call the Extension office and ask, “Well, if they’re not going to survive the winter outside, can I bring the mum inside – and hold it over the winter?” There are a couple of problems with that. First of all, inside our home, there isn’t enough sunlight to keep the plant going. Another option you may want to try is to just set it in your garage. That will keep it buffered from the extreme temperatures. Water it sparingly, and then there may be a chance that it will overwinter in the milder conditions of your garage.
But, if you want the mums to come back year after year, it’s best to plant them in the spring. The fall planted ones are just for color.
This feature story prepared with Dennis Patton, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.