Are Chrysanthemums Annual, Biennial, or Perennial Plants?

Are you thinking of planting some chrysanthemums this season, but want to know if they will come back each year before you start putting them in the ground? In this article, we look at chrysanthemums and their lifespan, as well as if they are annual, biennial, or perennial for your hardiness zone.

mums annual or perennial

Chrysanthemums, more commonly known as mums, are popular flowers that produce colorful blooms from summer through fall. You can find mums at just about any grocery store when summer is winding down. The vibrant yellows and reds that flower from the buds is sure to brighten the day of any gardener.

These cherished flowers are easy to grow and maintain. Plant them at the right time and in the right conditions, and you will see these garden gems come back each year. They just need ample sunlight, moderate water, and to be planted in well-draining soil.

So, are mums annuals or perennials? Though they are often treated as flowering annuals in the fall months, that doesn’t mean they can’t be grown as perennials. Let’s take a deeper look into the chrysanthemum’s life cycle, and what you can expect!

The Short Answer

While mums are considered herbaceous perennials, you must get them in the ground early enough in the season to see them come back year after year. They are typically treated as flowering annuals in most climates. Giving the mums more time to establish themselves in the soil ensures they can withstand the blistering cold winter weather and come back to greet you next autumn.

The Long Answer

pink chrysanthemums
Annual Chrysanthemums bloom for only one season, while perennials come back year after year.

As previously noted, mums will only come back if they have enough time to establish themselves in the soil before the cold weather hits. If you wait to plant your mums in the fall when they are found in abundance at local grocery stores, it’s too late.

Planting in the spring months is an almost guaranteed way to ensure they come back every year. It gives them time to establish their root system in the ground as the warmer soil prevents them from living a short life.

Therefore, if you buy them from the grocery store in the fall, keep them potted and indoors throughout the winter. When the spring plants start to bud as the ground softens, place the them in the soil and let them establish their root system.

Chrysanthemums: Herbaceous Perennials

yellow chrysanthemums
if you want your mums to grow year after year, plant them in the spring months.

Mums, short for chrysanthemums, are a popular plant among first-time gardeners and those that can’t seem to find their green thumb. This is because, if planted early, they will come back year after year, and they require minimal maintenance.

They originate from east Asia and have been used medicinally since around the 15th Century B.C. There are a number of different types, including intermediate, regular, and irregular incurve, reflex, quill, spider, and pompon. They all require full sun and about an inch of water each week to grow.

Known for their bright colors of yellow, orange, red, purple, bronze, pink, and white that bloom in autumn months, these flowers are a classic fall favorite. They thrive in the cool to mild climates of hardiness zones 4-9.

Without the hassle of planting yearly and not needing to baby them to grow, mums make a perfect low-maintenance plant. If you’re looking for bright colors to add to your front yard or garden that you won’t immediately kill, mums are perfect.

Perennial vs. Annual

Bright Yellow Mums Along a Border
Mums are perennials that regrow each season when given enough time for roots to establish.

In short, perennial plants come back year after year while annuals do not. Therefore, perennial plants have a longer lifespan.

On the other hand, annual plants do not live nearly as long as perennials. Annuals will produce buds, flower, then die in one season. However, many seasonal plants drop seeds that will essentially replant themselves and eventually grow back in the spring. It is vital to note that these seeds are different from the original plant.

While they don’t typically bloom as long as annuals, perennials continue to come back year after year if planted at the right time of year and maintained properly. One of the benefits of having perennials is they come back every year without needing to be replanted. While this is convenient, they do have several drawbacks compared to annuals.

For instance, perennials are often a more subtle color and don’t produce as much of an eye-catching flower as annuals. Perennials also must be planted in the spring if you want them to continue to come back. This means you have a relatively short window to plant your perennials.

One of the more intriguing facts about perennial and annual plants is that annuals can become perennials in the proper climate. If you live in a warmer climate, you may notice that some of your annuals keep coming up every year. This is because, with a lack of intense frost, the plant can keep growing.

Whether you prefer the excitement of purchasing annuals and planting new flowers every year, or if you decide to keep consistency by planting perennials and nurturing them over the years, mums are an exciting fall plant to help spice up the colors around your home.

Hardiness Zones

White chrysanthemums
One of the main criteria for the successful cultivation depends on your USDA hardiness zone.

USDA Hardiness zones for mums vary depending on the variety you decide to plant. The two types of mums you can purchase are garden mums and florist mums. Depending on the type you grow, it can grow anywhere from the USDA Hardiness zone 4 through 9.

It is vital to adhere to the USDA Hardiness zones when deciding if you should plant your favorite flowers directly into the soil. Understanding the zones and planting accordingly will help ensure that your plants successfully grow throughout their intended season. If you do not adhere to the zoning, you risk the chance of killing the plant.

Types of Mums

When gardeners talk about chrysanthemums, there are typically two types. Garden mums which are grown in the garden, and florist mums, which are found in grocery stores and are often grown by cut flower farmers. Let’s take a deeper look at each type.

Garden Mums

Garden Mums
Garden moms grow in hardiness zones 4 to 9 and are able to survive the cold months.

Also known as hardy mums, garden mums are the type you want to plant in your garden and forget about. They produce underground shoots that contain stolons that give the plant what it needs to survive the cold winter months.

If you see them planted in the ground, it is most likely a garden or hardy mum. These mums grow in the USDA Hardiness 4 through 9 zones and are engineered to withstand tough exterior elements.

To get the most out of your garden mums, plant them in their final resting place during the spring months. This will ensure they aren’t exposed to extreme cold before their root system has time to establish itself underground. By following this simple rule, you will see your perennial mums do what they do best and come up every year.

Florist Mums

Florist Mums
Florist Moms are usually grown as annuals that are resistant to USDA hardiness zones 7 to 9.

This type you typically find for sale at grocery stores are florist mums. They are a more fragile compared to others. The fragile state of florist mums is a result of lacking stolon production. As previously mentioned, garden mums produce a lot of stolons that help them survive every year in the ground.

Unfortunately, florist mums produce little to no stolons, resulting in a less likelihood of them being perennial flowers. While they can survive outside and come up every year, they are less likely to do so. They are hardy to USDA Hardiness zones 7 to 9.

Because of their lack of stolon production, florist mums will survive longer if kept in a pot and safe from a hard frost. They can survive when planted directly in the ground, but they must have a warmer climate or protection from the bitter cold.

Growing as Perennials

Light pink chrysanthemum flowers
Mums require minimal maintenance and regular watering during the dry months.

As previously stated, mums must be planted at the proper time to ensure they come back every year. Therefore, planting in the spring will help guarantee they survive the winter.

To establish your mums in time, you will most likely have to order them online, as most nurseries and grocery stores do not carry them until autumn.

Dig a hole slightly larger than the pot the mums came in and place the root system in the hole. Make sure it is not too deep. This is a common mistake that results in perennial mums turning into annuals.

After planting, give them a good soaking of water. You may also add mulch around the base of the plant to lock in moisture. While they require minimal maintenance, they do need to be watered during the dry months.

To keep them healthy, pinch off the old bud or the tips of the branches the following spring. This way the flower focuses on its root system and not the dead buds, ultimately resulting in a bushier plant. Stop pinching the branches in July to ensure you are not pinching off new buds.

Another way to keep them full of life is to provide plenty of full sunlight. Mums thrive on direct sunlight, so plant them in a spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. If they do not receive ample sunlight, they are less likely to bloom.

While mums may look dead, it’s difficult to tell unless it’s time for them to begin budding again, and they fail to do so. Therefore, it is vital to remain patient and don’t dig up the mum until late fall when it is obvious it will not bud out.

Growing as Annuals

Potted Mums in Many Colors
Potted or florist mums are usually grown as annuals during the fall.

Many people choose to grow mums as single-use autumn color annuals. They are popular fall flowers and appear on many front door stoops during this colorful season. Once the season is over, they have no use for them anymore. This is where florist mums come in handy.

Potted or florist mums are technically perennials. They even look like hardy mums and share the scientific name. However, their survival depends on when you get them and the climate in which you live.

They can be found in just about any grocery store or garden center once that cool crisp autumn breeze blows in. As mentioned before, it would be too late to plant them into the ground at this time. Unless, however, the climate is warm enough to ensure protection from extremely cold temperatures or frost.

It is best to repot a purchased florist mum as soon as you get home. Use a well-draining potting mix. This can be found in just about any garden center. The container should be larger than the one it came in so the roots have room to grow. You can even add other flowers in there for additional visual appeal!

Water these when the soil begins to feel dry. Do not allow them to wilt.

Potted mums should bloom for about 2-3 weeks. This depends on the temperature outdoors and how far in the blooming process the flowers were at the time of purchase. You may choose to overwinter them indoors and plant them in your garden after the last frost in the spring.

Final Thoughts

Mums are a popular fall plant that can come back year after year with some time and attention to detail. Garden mums are more likely to be perennial with little help. On the other hand, florist mums typically remain annual and will need to be replaced each season. However, with some attention to detail and the proper climate, florist mums can become perennial mums.

If you’re looking for a perennial plant that requires minimal maintenance, mums are an excellent option. Spice up your fall garden with the colorful red and yellow hues of chrysanthemums!

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