How to care for mums inside and outdoors: complete guide

How to care for mums

Outlines how to care for mums (chrysanthemums) in the garden or as potted plants, including position, watering, boosting flowers, hibernating and soil needs.

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When the summer flowers have bloomed and autumn bathes the garden in the last warm rays of the sun, the great time of chrysanthemums comes. The late bloomers create great color accents. They also bloom on the balcony and terrace until the end of autumn.

Originally, chrysanthemums come from China. It has been working on the breeding of these flowers for 2,000 years. In Chinese culture, the chrysanthemums — together with bamboo, Orchid and plum — are viewed as the four ‘noble plants’ that symbolize happiness and prosperity. In the middle of the 19th century, the chrysanthemums entered the European gardens and nurseries and immediately became popular.

How to care for mums — inside and outdoors

How to care for mums

Overview of varieties

Chrysanthemums are among the most popular garden and balcony plants and the selection of commercially available varieties is large, with single- and multi-coloured, filled and unfilled flowers. Although they are autumn flowers, they are offered almost all year round. Botanically, the plant genus of chrysanthemums belongs to the family of the Asteraceae.

The more than 40 species are mainly found in East Asia and were cultivated as ornamental plants in China more than 2,000 years ago. In the 17th century, the first plants came to Europe in six colour variations. Today there are more than 5,000 different varieties, but not all of them are hardy. Due to their close relationship with the real asters, the hardy strains for the open-earth are often referred to as winter asters.

The frost-sensitive varieties are offered in autumn as pot chrysanthemums and are a colorful ornament for balcony and terrace or serve as cut flowers for the vase. New to the market is the increasing proportion of hardy garden chrysanthemumsevery year. They are often offered in stores under the name “Garden-Mums”. These varieties are particularly robust because, unlike the traditional pot varieties that the gardener grows in the greenhouse, the garden chrysanthemums grow outdoors. This makes them more robust, which is particularly evident in rainy and bad weather periods.

Recommended autumn flowers are, for example, the reddish-brown, stuffed ‘burning point’, the lemon-yellow ‘Citronella’, the purple-pink ‘Schweizerland’ and the pompous, cream-coloured ‘White Bouquet’. ‘Anja’s Bouquet’ (pink violet), ‘Bienchen’ (orange-yellow) and ‘Hebe’ (tender pink) have proved particularly successful in terms of winter hardness and stability.

The so-called topf-chrysanthema (Chrysanthemum frutescens) are particularly suitable as balcony decorations. They are sold in full bloom, are easy to maintain, need a lot of water and little fertilizer and bloom for weeks. By nature, they are perennial plants, but with us they are usually grown for one year, i.e. when they have flowered, they can be disposed of.

How to care for mums: Flowering

Only when the nights get cooler do the buds of the undemanding perennials sprout. The flowering period of chrysanthemums usually begins in late summer and continues through autumn. Some less common species bloom in spring, mostly compact perennials. The hardy Greenland margerite (Chrysanthemum arcticum ssp. arcticum) blooms almost last through to the start of winter.

A stay in the fresh air enhances the intensity of their magnificent autumn colours and they are characterized by a longer flowering period. The reason: The perennials do not open all flower at the same time, but in bursts. If you ‘dead head’ while they are flowering, you can look forward to the plants for many weeks.

The shelf life also depends on the colour of the flowers: experiments showed that pink and violet varieties bloom the longest.

How to care for mums: Planting and soil

The autumn beauties enjoy the sun and thrive magnificently in the bed on nutritious soils, which should not be too dry or too moist. Especially they tolerate winter wetness very badly. In clay-containing soils, therefore, a drainage of gravel or sand is required.

For colourful autumn arrangements, the chrysanthemums should already set in suitable planters in early autumn with high-quality potting soil and keep them evenly moist. They hardly need fertilizer during their rather short flowering season, as a rule, the nutrient supply of the potting soil is sufficient.

Winter-hardy garden chrysanthemums can be planted in the bed after flowering, as long as the soil is frost-free. If they are to survive the winter well, put the plants in the bed as early as possible so that they can still root. They have problems in wet locations. Instead choose a dry place, for example near the house wall. The soil should be nutritious, chalky and well-drained.

To plant a chrysanthemum properly, only a few aspects are relevant. Follow these steps:

  • Put the potted young plant in water for 10-20 minutes
  • In the loosened, weeded-out soil create a pit with twice the volume of the root bale
  • Optimize the excavated soil with compost and horn chips
  • Pot out the flower and plant it to the root neck
  • Tie high-growing varieties to a support rod

How to care for mums: Watering

During the flowering period, the bushy plants must be watered daily – even in rain. The large leaves otherwise hang down very quickly, but recover after the next thorough watering. After flowering, the shoots of pro-year plants are cut off over the pot for about a finger. During the rest period, only water so much that the earth does not dry out. In spring, the plants come into fresh soil and re-expel. To keep them low and bushy, the new shoots should be trimmed several times.

During the main growth season in summer, organic vegetable fertilizer or compost soil is fertilized every two weeks. By the way: If older chrysanthemums suddenly soar, it is because the plants have previously been treated with growth-inhibiting substances in the gardener, the effect of which decreases after some time.

When watering, be careful not to wet leaves and flowers. This measure helps you to prevent fungal infestation

How to care for mums indoors – Short guide

Chrysanthemums are not only among the flowering perennials that bloom very late, they also often inspire with a very long flowering period. In the following we have compiled the most important hints for the care of the popular autumn flower in a short and clear way.

Avoid direct sun

Of course, this also includes the right location. Chrysanthemums need a lot of light, but they don’t tolerate direct sun – especially the midday sun – usually very well. So it’s best to make sure you have a bright to sunny location without a direct midday sun.

Substrate and planting

For your pot chrysanthemums, use a nutritious, humic plant soil that you can loosen up with some sand. Pay particular attention to good pot drainage, so that superfluous water can flow easily. You can achieve one by filling in shards of clay, small pebbles or a similar material as the lowest layer of the pot about two to five centimetres high.

Water and fertilization

The lushly flowering chrysanthemums are highly consuming, so they require a lot of water and fertilizer. In autumn, it is sufficient to pour abundantly about once or twice a week. The right time to water is when the top layer of substrate in the pot has already dried. You should avoid fertilization in autumn.


Flowering stems can be cut off to just above the ground.


Chrysanthemums in the pot should preferably not hibernate outside, but in the house, in the garden shed or in the greenhouse at temperatures between five and ten degrees Celsius.

How to care for mums: Pruning

Only when the young shoots sprout out of the earth with the mild temperatures from March, it is time for the cutback. In the process, the withered plant is cut off as close to the ground as possible with scissors, without injuring the young shoots.

An occasional pruning of the plant in the season promotes dense growth. The same applies to the first flowering approaches – the chrysanthemum branches more and blooms more abundantly. In general, the flower perennial grows more widely in the second year. Provide your chrysanthemums in the bed with some garden compost and horn shavings every spring.

How to care for mums: Propagating

Chrysanthemums can best be propagated in spring by dividing the plant. Pot chrysanthemums can also be reproduced by cuttings from summer to autumn: For this purpose, you cut off some young shoots with a sharp knife near the base, remove the lower leaves and shorten the cuttings. Put the knife just below a leaf knot.

You can put the cuttings in pots or growing bowls with moist sowing soil. Then cover the vessels with a transparent plastic hood or place a foil bag over them. To grow, the plants need a bright, 20 degree warm place. The soil is kept slightly moist and the cuttings are regularly sprayed with rainwater until roots have formed. Late-onset shoots should be wintered in the light and cool in the house, summer cuttings of hardy varieties can be planted directly in the garden in autumn.

How to care for mums: Diseases and pests

Chrysanthemums can get infested with insects that bore into the leaves and lay their eggs. The larvae eat passages between the upper and lower skin of the leaves. Control is only permitted with pest-free Neem. The white chrysanthemum grate is noticeable by 0.5 to two centimetres large spots on the top of the leaf. They are greenish-white or yellow and later have a brown center. On the bottom are pustules with flour-like fluff. As soon as the first spots occur, the plants can be treated with suitable fungicides.

Perennial chrysanthemums can be hibernated

Those who have bought perennial chrysanthemums as a flowering potted plant in autumn should hibernate them in a cool area of the home — at a maximum of eight degrees — and not put them outdoors again until April. They need a nutritious loose soil, they can’t tolerate waterlogging at all.

In the garden bed, the brown plants are cut back to about a quarter of the height in late autumn. If you want to bring the flowers safely through the winter, you have to protect the rhizomes well. For this purpose, the root bales can be covered with foliage or fir branches or similar protective mulch.

Planted chrysanthemums are covered with several layers of fir mulch in late autumn to protect against the first frosts. Under a damp foliage, on the other hand, the plants would rot immediately.

Potted plants hibernate best in a bright and cool quarter, ideal is an unheated greenhouse. In mild winters and with good protection, the plants can also be placed in pots over the cold season, provided that the planters are large enough. In case of doubt, the chrysanthemums are simply lowered into the soil with the pot.

Pairing with other plants

Chrysanthemums play a special role as soloists or planting partners in planters. Pot grasses such as rod millet, china reed, segge and feather grass benefit from the bright flower colours of the chrysanthemums, while they themselves give playful lightness to the arrangements on the terrace, balcony or at the entrance to the house.

Compact varieties of rosemary, catnip, fat hen,curry herb or colored leaves such as purple bells (Heuchera) also prove to be an attractive court state. In spacious terrace vessels you can let your creativity run wild when combining. The plants should be placed close to each other, as they will grow only a little in the coming weeks.

How to care for mums: Summary

LocationFull sunny
Avoid easterly winds.
EarthNutrient-rich, calcareous, well-drained soil, rich in humus
FertilizeIn spring every two to three weeks,
Liquid fertilizer
Phweakly acidic
WaterRegularly, more common for flowering period
Avoid waterlogging
Best seasonSeptember to November
HibernateWinter hardy, yet protect the plant sufficiently from frost


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