11 Tips For Growing Chrysanthemums in Pots or Containers
Thinking of growing chrysanthemums in pots or containers this season? Garden mums can be a welcome addition to any fall garden. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen shares her top tips for beautiful blooming mums in containers or pots.
Nothing says “fall” like colorful foliage, pumpkins, hay bales … and Chrysanthemums. There are hundreds of varieties of Chrysanthemums, or “Mums,” each with their own unique characteristics. These attractive plants, with their profusion of richly-colored flowers, are one of the most popular fall flowers commonly grown in pots or containers.
Their flowers bloom in many different colors, most popularly in shades of yellow, orange, and pink. Whether you buy a single potted plant or a car-load, Mums make a stunning floral display at the end of the growing season. But they are also synonymous with trouble in colder weather, especially when grown in pots.
Fall-blooming container grown Mums will bloom for at least several weeks in the fall. In ideal conditions, your Mums may bloom from early fall until frost. Choosing the healthiest plants and taking care of them will help prolong their vigor and beauty. Here we will share our top tips for beautiful container grown chrysanthemums, as well as how to care for them when they are finished blooming. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!
Choose a Healthy Plant
The first thing you’ll need to do is choose the healthiest plant you can find. You are probably buying Mums for their cheerful blooms. You will likely have a variety of colors and sizes to choose from. Choose wisely to maximize your enjoyment of these fall beauties.
Look at the flowers. You can expect your potted Mum to bloom for at least 2-3 weeks, but ideally, they can bloom even longer. When selecting a potted Mum, choose one that is mostly buds rather than fully in bloom. This way, you can enjoy the full duration of its blooming phase. Do not choose a Mum with many faded flowers as it will already be at the end of its blooming period.
Look at the leaves. Choose a lush and healthy plant. Leaves should be firm and green. Avoid plants with wilted or yellowed leaves. Check for signs of insects or disease and don’t buy a plant that looks generally sick or unhealthy.
Provide Plenty of Sunlight
Mums need full sun to part shade. They do best with at least 6 hours of bright sunlight each day. Set your pots or containers in a location that gets plenty of sun: on a porch or deck, in the yard, along a driveway or fence; the possibilities are endless.
But be aware that on a warm day in the sun, a potted plant has a tendency to dry out quickly. This can lead to other problems, including browning of their flowers and even death of the plant. So watch them diligently once placed in their sunny home.
Keep your Mums moist. The soil should feel moist, but not wet or soggy. Mums do not tolerate soggy soil, nor to they tolerate completely drying out. This is critical to keeping them alive and blooming in the fall and beyond.
Plants growing in pots and containers tend to dry quickly, so check the soil moisture daily and give them a hearty drink of water anytime they start to feel dry. If your Mums are growing in a large container, you can add a thin layer of mulch across the surface to help conserve moisture.
Invest in Fertilizer
If you are growing Mums as an annual for a one-time fall bloom, you do not need to worry about adding any additional fertilizer. If you have successfully overwintered your Mums and are growing them as perennials, you may want to do some fertilizing.
You can fertilize each year in spring and again in early to mid-summer. Mums are not heavy feeders, so you will just need a light dose. Be careful not to over-fertilize or your plants may produce a great deal of leafy green growth at the expense of flower production.
Deadhead Spent Blooms
Removing spent blooms (deadheading) will help keep your plants looking fresh. Deadheading can also help encourage your plants to produce more blooms. Using sharp scissors or handheld pruning shears, simply snip off any spent flowers.
Repot After Blooming
If you buy potted Mums in the fall and decide to keep your Mums growing past one season, you should plan to repot them into a larger container. You will need a container that’s larger than the one they came in.
Mums sold as fall ornamentals tend to be quite rootbound and they will appreciate having a bit of extra room to grow. Use a durable and sturdy pot made of plastic, resin, or ceramic, and make sure your pot has good drainage holes on the bottom.
You can choose to re-pot your Mums individually or grow several in one container. You can also do a mixed planting. If you have a large container, you could grow a Mum with other fairly compact sun-loving annuals, such as ornamental peppers, snapdragons, and pansies, or herbs such as basil and chives.
There are many other plants that would grow well with Mums, such as a compact ornamental grass or a trailing ground cover that drapes over the edge or the container. You can have fun making your own unique arrangement.
Use the Right Soil
Mums like a rich, well-drained potting soil. You won’t find a potting soil that is specially formulated for Mums. You also won’t need the highest quality or most expensive soil available. Any decent quality, well-draining garden soil should be good.
It’s most important that the soil doesn’t stay soggy or dry out completely, so it should hold moisture without being squishy and wet.
Provide Plenty of Space
Mums can grow quite large and bushy. If you are planting several Mums (or other plants) together in a large container, give them each plenty of space to grow.
Plant them approximately 18 inches apart to allow each one to have full access to sun and water. You don’t want your container grown plants to have to compete with each other for individual space and resources.
Overwinter Potted Mums
The most important thing to remember about overwintering is that your plant’s roots need to be protected from freezing. Wherever you are overwintering your potted Mum, try to keep the roots above 32 degrees.
You can wrap the pot with an insulating layer, or surround it with a layer of mulch. While protecting your plants from a hard freeze, also keep the roots slightly moist, especially for a potted plant, as you don’t want them to dry out completely, even in winter.
If you live in zones 7-9, you may be able to overwinter your Mum in a large container outdoors. If your container is large enough and you’re in a warmer climate where freezes are rare, you can probably just add a layer of mulch to the top of the container.
If you live in a cooler zone, you can try overwintering your potted Mum in a protected area that is dark and cool, such as a garage or shed. Basically you are trying to prevent the tender roots from freezing.
Prune For Fuller Growth
If you have successfully overwintered your Mum, you are ready for another year of growth and blooming. In the winter or early spring, before the plant starts actively growing, prune your plant to encourage fuller, bushier growth.
If the plant produces flower buds early to mid summer, you can also pinch off these buds. This will encourage your plant to produce a heavier and more uniform flush of flowers in the fall.
Have Realistic Expectations
It is entirely possible that your potted Mums will last for many years. They can continue to grow and flower annually if given proper care. Unfortunately, many Mums sold as seasonal fall decorations are not terribly hardy for continued growth year after year.
They are grown and marketed to be fully enjoyed for one blooming cycle, and that’s all. A careful and patient gardener, however, can coax these potted plants into a much longer life span.
Do not simply expect that your Mums will last forever, but if you are willing to put in the necessary care, you can nurture them through several years of growth.
A potted Mum, blooming in the crisp autumn air is a seasonal delight. Anyone can grow Mums in containers throughout the fall, enjoying their proliferation of colorful blooms. It’s simple to keep your plants happily blooming for a single season. If you want to enjoy the same plants year after year, you will need to take a few extra steps to make sure they endure the winter and have the right conditions to continue growing.
The most important things to remember are to give them plenty of sunlight and keep the soil moist. If you want to enjoy repeat bloomers year after year, do a little light pruning to encourage compact growth and protect overwintered plant roots from freezing. If your chrysanthemum variety is hardy and well cared for, you can enjoy repeat performance each season.