After the smiles on Jack O’ Lanterns start to droop to the side, most folks are tempted to toss their whole fall setup and move on to the next holiday.
While those pumpkins can enjoy a second life as compost, taking a little care of the mums in your fall display can have them flourishing in your garden next year.
Generally inexpensive and in a variety of colors, chrysanthemums are a fall must-have for many people.
There are two main types: the “hardy” or “garden” mum and the “florist” mum, with larger blooms and longer stems used for cutting.
The characteristic that really separates the two varieties, however, is that a garden mum produces root runners which allow it to weather the colder months — where the florist mum often won’t be able to survive the winter with it’s shorter runners.
If you’ve grabbed a hardy garden mum, rather than pitching it, consider storing it for later planting to let it live to its perennial potential.
As with many potted plants you get at the store, chances are your mum is a bit root-bound.
Before planting, loosen up the root ball with some gentle soaking.
Transition them to a larger pot if possible, which doesn’t have to be fancy or attractive as the next step simply has them in storage before they’ll ultimately be a part of your garden.
Bring your mums in sometime before we get our first big frost, and tuck them somewhere dark and cool like the garage or basement without trimming the foliage.
Make a weekly date to water them so you can stay consistent.
Maybe Saturday morning they can be part of your routine while you mill around your house.
They’ll be ready to emerge by spring, after the last frost.
When it is finally truly spring, plant them in your chosen spot outside with a little compost.
Full sun is recommended.
Cut back the foliage almost to the soil level and monitor for new growth as a sign they’ve made it through the winter.
While they like the sun, they don’t like the heat and you will want to keep them well-watered, especially if you notice them starting to wilt.
If you want to encourage blooming in fall rather than their natural time in the late summer, cut them or “pinch” them back.
Many gardeners use the 4th of July as a date to stop pinching for fall blooms.
It will also keep them from spreading too much, and of course you can also split them (and even repot a few for the next year’s display).
In future years, after they’ve had some time to make themselves at home in your yard, simply insulate them in the ground with some straw or mulch to tuck them in for the winter.
With a bit of extra T.L.C., saying goodbye to fall doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to your mums.