Well, October is here! I have been getting a lot of requests lately for tips on Fall plants, specifically mums (and pumpkins, which will be in a post coming later this week). At the farm store we sell mums and all their fall companions during September and October, so after managing the shop for eight years I have learned a thing or two. I am sharing all my tips below so you can feel like a plant-pro this fall season!
Quick Tips: Fall Mums
- My Number One Mum Pro-Tip: **Buy mums when the buds are closed/tight** They will open eventually (about 1-2 weeks) and you will enjoy the blooms longer!
- Mums like full sun and air flow, this mean 8+ hours of direct sunlight OUTSIDE.
- When choosing a mum look for tight buds, symmetrical shape, healthy green foliage and sturdy stems/no broken sections. And make sure the plant is well taken care of, a wilted plant will start you out on the wrong foot, grab a healthy, perky one!
- Stick to one or two colors when using them to decorate; this will give you the nicest effect from far away.
FAQ’s: Fall Mums
Are there different types of mums?
Yes! Let’s go over the two main types of mums – we can call them florist mums and garden mums for our purposes. They both have the same parent (Daisy) but have very different aspects and purposes. Florist mums are for cutting as the name might imply, they produce a few giant blooms and are mostly grow in greenhouses strictly for design purposes. Garden mums are what we are talking about in this post – the gorgeous fall plant with stunning bloom cover that is enjoyed over a several weeks. Garden mums are hardier than florist mums and can survive as perennials in warmer zones (6-9).
Are mums annuals or perennials?
Both! Research will tell you they are perennials in zones 6-9 BUT I live in zone 6a and they are marginally hardy at best. I have heard from the occasional customer that their mums came back the following year when they left them in the ground, but mostly they do not re-grow in my zone. I prefer to enjoy them as a compact fall plant on my porch anyway, so I have not personally tried to get them to come back as a perennial.
Can I plant my fall mums in the ground?
Yes, however,I recommend keeping them in a pot/planter as opposed to in the ground. Once they die in the inter you would have to dig them up, much easier to just pop them out of a planter! BUT, if you have a landscaper that will do the planting and clean up, mums are gorgeous in mass plantings because of their bright colors and full, mounding shape!
How else can I use fall mums to decorate?
Mums come in such striking and bold colors and with their stunning bloom cover they are beautiful as centerpieces in large planters – surround them with other trailing pants or contrasty foliage such as coleus, heuchera or black ornamental peppers. You can mix them in on a porch steps display with pumpkins, gourds and cabbage plants or you can keep them in a tidy row in a window box. They are pretty versatile and can be found in many colors and sizes at the garden centers – you can choose the best for your purposes!
Should I trust the quality from big box store like Walmart?
Personally, I do not. But you do you! I buy from local garden centers and farms. The staff at local shops are aways eager and willing to help with all your questions and concerns, no question is ever too much. Also the quality is always better and safer in my opinion!
Do I need to deadhead to promote more growth and blooms?
Yes! Deadheading mums is a super tedious task but your extra effort will pay off with new blooms and prolong the enjoyment of fall flowers for you!
How often should I water my fall mums?
I love this question, I like to counter with how often do you drink water? Think of plants like people, they need water to survive, they don’t want to get dehydrated and they don’t want too much water either! In an ideal situation they would get a few small drinks throughout the day, but ain’t nobody got time for that! So I tell my customers to water their mums sparingly; if they accidentally get a little too dry give them a good soaking.
And watch the weather! If it’s going to be sunny and hot they will need more water, if it’s going to be cool and overcast they won’t need as much. If they are in a pot they will also need to be watered a bit more often than if they are in the ground.
Pro-Tips on Watering: Stick you finger into the soil about one inch down. If the soil down at that level is dry, water the plant; if the soil is wet, the plant is ok for another day or so, depending on how wet it is. Always water as close to the soil as possible, watering from above and getting the foliage/flowers can be damaging to the plant! (These watering tips are universal to most outdoor plants).
What do I do if frost is threatening?
Mums like the cool temperatures, this is why they are grown for the fall, however, they don’t love frost or temps in the 20s. If frost threatens you have a few options: pull them inside or at least under an overhang where the frost can’t settle on them; cover them with a thick sheet and leave them outside; group them together on the grass (not on cement or pavement) and cover if possible to keep warm; mulch around the base or the pot to keep the roots insulated, especially if the frost is lasting for days and you can’t pull them inside.
Long story short, mums really just do their thing as long as they get adequate water and sunlight, maintenance is relatively easy! Plus they come in tons of beautiful colors and sizes, and as long as you follow my tips you will have beautiful, thriving plants all fall!
Other Fall Plants To Consider
FALL PLANTS FOR THE SUN
Asters – Very similar flower to mums, always purple
Cabbage/Kale – Love these for the different texture and color they can add to a landscape
Ornamental Peppers – Lots of colorful varieties, great for window boxes
Millet – Great for feeding the birds! They love to rest on the stalks and eat the seeds
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ – Ahhh one of my favorites! This beautiful sedum turns a beautiful pink/crimson in the fall!
FALL PLANTS FOR THE SHADE
Heuchera (Coral Bells) – A perennial for the shade that comes in hundreds of varieties with different shades foliage literally in any autumn shade you can dream of!
Fern ‘Lady in Red’ – One of my all time favorite ferns because of its beautiful burgundy color
Cabbage/Kale – These will survive in the shade as well as sun
Pansies/Viola – Colorful, tiny blooms that can tolerate partial shade
Thinking of getting pumpkins also!? Click here for all my Pumpkin Buying Tips!