Do Mums Come Back Every Year?

Sometimes...We Explain

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A young woman plants colorful fall mums
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Chrysanthemums are a sure sign that autumn has arrived! Mums come in an array of colors ranging from creamy white and sunny yellow to hot pink and deep purple. They’re a beautiful addition to your autumn garden, blooming when the rest of your summer flowers have faded.  Pollinators love them, too! And they’re the perfect backdrop to seasonal displays of pumpkins and gourds.

You’ve probably always heard that mums are perennials, which means they can return season after season. But if you’ve ever planted them in the fall and wondered why they never come back for you, you’re not imagining things. If given the right conditions, mums are perennial in USDA Zones 5 to 9 (find your zone here). Read on to learn what you need to know about how to get mums to make a return appearance next year

What USDA Hardiness Zone Am I In? And Why Does It Matter?

Are Mums Annuals or Perennials?

Actually, both! Annuals are plants that live for one growing season. Perennials return for many years. It turns out that mums can be perennial if they get the right combination of environmental factors. (We’ll talk more about that later!) When they don’t get what they need, they act like annuals and only survive for the current growing season.

How Can I Make Mums Come Back Every Year?

If you’re really motivated to make your mums perennials, you need to plant them as early as possible in the growing season. We mean plant your mums in the spring, if at all possible. This enables the plant to put down strong roots so that it can get better established to make it through the winter.

Unfortunately, you usually don’t see mums for sale in the spring unless you order them from online nurseries. This will give you the best shot at establishing these plants as perennials.

If you wait until late summer or fall to plant when the plants show up at big box retailers and nurseries, you’ve still got a shot. Look for plants that are in tight bud, not already blooming, and plant them ASAP. Aim for getting them in the ground by late summer or no later than mid-September in most of the country.

When planting, rough up the root ball a little with your gloved hand before you put it in the hole. This seems counter-intuitive, but it actually stimulates the plant to put out new roots and, hopefully, get established faster. Then, keep your mums watered, but not soggy. They like plenty of moisture to grow strong roots.

Another tip for getting mums to settle into your garden? Trim off the flowers when the colors begin to fade so that the plant puts energy into making roots, not seeds. This trick will give you your best chance at helping your mums get established before winter arrives.

How Do I Pinch Mums?

If you lucked out, your mums will come back next spring. Yay, you! But be patient; they sometimes take their time and can be a little slow to show signs of life, so don’t get too eager to yank out what looks like a dead plant in early spring.

Once they start growing, you can trim them to maintain a better, more rounded shape. Simply pinch off the tips with your fingers or garden snips so that the plant doesn’t become tall and leggy.

But if you’re more of a live-and-let-live gardener, it’s perfectly fine to leave them alone. They’ll be taller and won’t have that tightly-mounded shape like when they came from the nursery last year, but they’ll still be pretty. It’s your call!

purewow author

Freelance Gardening Editor

Arricca Elin SanSone is a gardener with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to PureWow, she writes for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, The Spruce and many other...

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