Growing Chrysanthemums

How to Grow Mums aka Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemum Orange

Chrysanthemums or “mums” are associated with autumn, appearing in jewel colors in garden centers in September and October. However, if you are growing mums, they are hardy perennial plants best planted in the early spring. Discover how to plant, grow, and care for these colorful members of the daisy family!

About Mums

The Chrysanthemum is a member of the Asteraceae (Compositae) family, related to dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, and cosmos.  Each bloom is made of hundreds of tiny flowers called florets. The plant ranges in size from a common small cushion mum to the giant spider mums, and they bloom in almost every color of the rainbow:  yellow, lavender, pink, purple, red, bronze, orange, and white. They leaves are a lovely blue/green.

A Brief Mum History

The chrysanthemum was first cultivated in China as a flowering herb back in 15th century B.C. Based on early illustrations, it appeared as more of a daisy-like flower. Since then, the mum has been bred in so many shapes, sizes, showy styles and a multitude of colors that don’t always resemble its humble beginnings.


According to the National Chrysanthemum Society, “the genus Chrysanthemum once included more species, but was split several decades ago into several genera, putting the economically important florist chrysanthemum in the genus Dendranthema.  The placement of the florist chrysanthemum in this genus was very contentious.  A ruling of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature in 1999 changed the defining species of the genus Chrysanthemum to C. indicum, giving the florist mum back its prized generic name.” The National Chrysanthemum Society divides bloom forms into 13 classes.

Decorative Mums

Mums that are sold in garden centers in the autumn should generally be treated as annuals. They are decorative gift plants which are not bred to be hardy; it’s their color, size and form that are prized! If these plants are put in the ground in late fall, many won’t make it through the winter in cold regions.


When to Plant Mums

  • You can start mums indoors from seed 6 to 8 weeks before your last spring frost date.

Preparing the Planting Site

  • Mums generally grow to a width and height of 1 to 3 feet, so keep this in mind when planning your garden.
  • For best results, select a spot in full sun away from shady trees and big shrubs.
  • Soil needs to be well-drained and evenly moist. Mums do not like standing water and will quickly rot if left too wet. Add aged manure or compost to the soil for fertility.

How to Plant Mums

  • Plant mums in the ground at the same depth they were at in the pot. If planted too low, water can gather around the base and rot the stems.
  • Place plants 18 to 36 inches apart, depending on the mature size of the plant.


How to Care for Mums

  • Mums are heavy feeders and should be fertilized monthly. Sprinkle a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) around the plant.
  • Maintain good air circulation around plants.
  • Add mulch around the mum to conserve soil moisture and to keep weeds out.
  • Soak the soil deeply when watering. Avoid getting water on the leaves.
  • When new shoots reach 3 to 4 inches tall, pinch off the top leaving 2 to 3 leaves on the shoot. This will create a bushier plant. Continue pinching once a month until mid-July when flower buds develop.
  • Stop fertilizing when flower buds emerge.

pink chrysanthemums

Overwintering Mums

In USDA Hardiness Zones 5 and warmer, perennial chrysanthemums can be kept outdoors (in the ground) through the winter.

  • Add 4 to 6 inches of mulch around the plant after the ground has frozen in the fall.
  • Don’t cut back mums when tidying up flower beds in the fall. The dead growth insulates the roots.
  • Cut off the dead stems and leaves when you see the first green shoots emerging in the spring.

In particularly cold areas (Zones 4 and colder), it’s easiest to treat mums as annuals. However, they can be overwintered indoors in an unheated basement or garage, or a dark, cold closet.

  • Pot up plants after the first frost in the fall; include as much of the roots as possible.
  • Leave the foliage on the plants until spring.
  • Water well and place in a totally dark 32ºF to 50ºF area.
  • The plants will hibernate for the winter if you keep their roots damp.
  • Check pots weekly. In the spring introduce plants gradually to light and set them out in the garden after the last killing frost.

Dividing Mums

Every 2 to 3 years, divide the mum when you see new growth in the spring. Using a large knife cut out the old central portion of the plant and discard. Cut the remaining portion into sections. Each section should haveseveral shoots and a good root system. Replant these sections.


Mums are susceptible to aphids, mites, and powdery mildew.

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

  • The word “chrysanthemum” comes from the Greek words chrys, meaning “golden,” and anthemion, meaning “flower.” Its original color was golden, though mums now come in many colors.
  • Mums are considered an emblem of youth in Chinese and Japenese culture. The Chinese also believe that it prevents gray hair.
  • It’s said that a single petal placed in the bottom of a glass of wine enhances longevity.
  • In the language of flowers a red mum means “I love you” and a white mum means innocence, purity, and pure love.
  • The mum is November’s birth flower!

Vegetable Gardener's Handbook


Growing Chrysanthemums

Botanical Name Chrysanthemum x morifolium, C. rubellum
Plant Type Flower
Sun Exposure Full Sun, Part Sun
Soil Type Loamy
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Summer, Fall
Flower Color Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Hardiness Zones 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
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