Don’t Throw Out Your Mums! They Are Perennial Flowers, Not Annuals

As the seasons shift and the vibrant hues of autumn begin to paint the world, one iconic flower takes center stage: the chrysanthemum, affectionately known as “mums.” With their breathtaking array of colors and intricate petals, mums have long been a symbol of fall’s arrival, adorning gardens, front porches, and floral displays across the globe. But beneath their fleeting beauty lies a secret that many mum sellers would prefer you never discover: mums are not mere annuals, destined for a single season’s display, but rather enduring perennials that have the potential to grace your landscape year after year.

Don’t throw out your mums this winter!

The misconception that mums are merely annuals could be attributed to a combination of factors, including marketing strategies and our collective perception of these blooms as seasonal fixtures. For years, mum sellers have propagated the notion that these flowers should be treated as short-lived annuals, creating a cycle of consistent repurchasing. This approach serves to benefit their business by fostering a culture of replacing mums annually, rather than nurturing them for their enduring potential. What can I say? Mums are big business.

The reality, however, presents a different story. Chrysanthemums are hardy perennials that, with proper care and attention, can thrive and multiply for years. Understanding the perennial nature of mums challenges the status quo and invites us to reimagine our approach to gardening. By recognizing mums as long-term additions to our landscapes, we open ourselves up to a world of benefits that extend well beyond the confines of fall.

One of the most remarkable aspects of growing mums as perennials is their adaptability to various climates and growing conditions. With a wide range of cultivars available, gardeners can choose mums that are suited to their specific climate and soil type, allowing these resilient plants to establish themselves and flourish over time. Moreover, the capacity of mums to withstand colder temperatures makes them an ideal addition to gardens in regions that experience frost and even light snowfall.

Cultivating mums as perennials also offers the opportunity to witness their gradual transformation over seasons. As these plants settle into their environments, they can develop into larger, more robust clumps, producing an ever-expanding array of blooms that enliven the landscape year after year. This continuous cycle of growth and renewal adds a sense of connection to our gardens, as we watch the evolution of these plants unfold before our eyes.

In the realm of sustainability, embracing mums as perennials aligns with the ethos of reducing waste and conserving resources. By investing time and care into nurturing these plants, we reduce the need for constant replacement and, in turn, contribute to a more environmentally-conscious approach to gardening.

Overwinter care for chrysanthemums

Many growers and sellers of mums don’t want you to realize that these are perennial flowers! Fortunately, it’s easy to care for these flowers overwinter and get them to grow back.

Overwintering mums, however, requires a bit of attention and preparation to ensure their health and vitality come springtime. In this section, we’ll explore the essential steps for providing overwinter care for mums, allowing these resilient perennials to weather the cold months and emerge stronger than ever.

1. Choosing the Right Location: Before winter’s onset, it’s crucial to select an appropriate location for your mums. Choose a spot that offers protection from harsh winds and extreme temperature fluctuations. Placing them near a building or against a windbreak can help shield them from the brunt of winter’s challenges.

2. Pruning and Deadheading: In late fall or early winter, trim back the stems of your mums to about 4-6 inches from the ground. This not only helps prevent disease and fungal issues but also channels the plant’s energy into its root system for improved survival during winter.

3. Mulching for Insulation: Apply a thick layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around the base of the mum plants. This insulation helps regulate soil temperature, retain moisture, and protect the roots from freezing and thawing cycles.

4. Watering and Hydration: Although mums don’t require as much water during winter, it’s important to ensure they stay adequately hydrated, especially if the season brings dry spells or erratic weather. Water the plants thoroughly before the ground freezes, but be cautious not to overwater, as soggy soil can lead to root rot.

5. Avoid Fertilization: During winter, avoid fertilizing your mums. Fertilizers can encourage new growth that is susceptible to frost damage. Instead, let the plants enter a state of dormancy, conserving energy for the next growing season.

6. Protection from Snow: In areas prone to heavy snowfall, gently brush off accumulated snow from your potted mums. This will help avoid damage to the pot or the plant inside.

7. Pest and Disease Monitoring: While pests and diseases are generally less active during winter, it’s still a good practice to periodically check your mums for signs of trouble. Remove any dead or diseased plant material to prevent issues from spreading.

8. Be Patient in Spring: As the days grow longer and temperatures begin to rise, resist the urge to rush your mums out of dormancy. Gradually remove the mulch and allow the plants to acclimate to the changing conditions. Once the danger of frost has passed, you can fully uncover and prune the mums to encourage new growth.

By following these overwinter care steps, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring the health and vitality of your chrysanthemums throughout the colder months. Embracing mums as perennials and providing them with the attention they deserve not only enriches your garden but also deepens your connection to the ever-changing rhythms of the natural world. As spring approaches, the reward will come in the form of fresh, vibrant blooms that carry the legacy of your nurturing care through the seasons.

Thomas Nelson
Gardening Expert
Hi! I'm Thomas, one of the founders of The Garden Magazine. I come from a long line of gardeners who used the art of gardening as a way to live long, healthy lives. I'm here to share my knowledge of gardening with the world!