To create fall’s patchwork quilt of color, you can’t miss with mums from the Garden Center. Perfect domes of blooms in all sizes add an explosion of color to your fall porch, patio, doorway and garden.
Mums come in a warm palette of colors that ranges from sunshine yellow and Home Depot’s favorite orange, all the way to pink, deep red and burgundy. Contrast these with aster’s crisp white blooms and serene lavender flowers for maximum visual impact in your fall display.
Mum is short for chrysanthemum, a cultivated plant that needs hot summer days to form foliage and cool fall days to promote flowering. Along with their close cousins, asters, mums sometimes can be found in Garden Centers in spring, but always in late summer.
Asters are closely related to daisies with smaller blooms and butter-yellow button centers; you’ll find shades of white, violet, pink and purple in the Garden Center. Both plants are popular with pollinators like bees and butterflies, a delightful bonus in the late summer garden.
Mums and asters are hardy in zones 5 to 9, handling cold down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Both plants are available in spring, and when set out in the garden, have the long growing season to become established. You can even grow them from seed in spring. Extend the life of the potted mums you buy for fall decoration by planting them in the garden at the end of the season.
There are florist mums and garden mums. The former are typically sold indoors, for example in florist shops, and garden mums are usually sold outdoors. If you have questions about the type of mum you have, read the plant tag for the cultivar name, planting instructions and cold hardiness. If there’s a named variety on the tag, you can look up the hardiness zone in The Garden Club plant finder.
Both mums and asters are easy to grow once established. When you give them sunny locations, well-drained soils and a little TLC, they’ll bloom year after year.
Best Advice for growing Mums:
- For maximum bloom, feed regularly with a balanced fertilizer. When the plant reaches the desired size, you can stop fertilizing.
- Mums need ventilation to prevent mildew. Give them breathing room by spacing them several inches apart.
- Overhead watering encourages foliar diseases. For best results, water near the roots with a watering wand or drip irrigation.
- Use a layer of mulch to slow evaporation and keep roots cool.
- Keep a consistent watering schedule. Mums can flower prematurely if they undergo drought stress.
- To encourage plants to branch and produce more flowers, pinch and remove the growing tip of every stem. Pinching keeps plants from becoming leggy.
It’s simple to give your potted mum or aster a new life in the garden, says expert Jennifer Webber, head grower for Rambo Nursery in Dallas, Georgia. Rambo Nursery is an exclusive grower for The Home Depot.
Webber recommends digging a planting hole one to three inches larger than the nursery pot and adding organic matter to the soil. Space mums six to eight inches apart and water daily until established.
As temperatures chill in late fall, protect mums with several inches of mulch. Wait until spring to trim back the stems and fertilize to encourage foliage and flower growth. If your mum blooms in spring, pinch back the blooms in late summer to promote fall flowering.