Trick to get mums to come back every year: Plant them now

Garden mum 'Antica Bronze'
Garden mum ‘Antica Bronze’. Photo courtesy Ball Horitcultural
garden mum plants at Waterman's in Springville NY
The garden mum plants are bigger than this now (this photo was taken a couple weeks ago). Still, they’re not much to look at, but in the fall, you’ll be glad you planted mums. And you’ll be glad the following year when the mums come back again. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Can you get garden mums to come back year after year?

Yes, you can, said Ethan Waterman, manager of Waterman’s Greenhouse, 12316 Vaughn St. (Route 240), East Concord (Springville.)

“Planting them now is the trick,” Waterman said. “You can’t take a mum out of the pot in October and shove it in the ground and think it will come next year. You have to plant them now to get them established so they make it through the winter.”

Most of the mums that you buy already flowering in September and October are sold as annuals because it’s too late in the season to plant them; they won’t  make it through the winter.

To care for your garden mums, after the plant is done flowering, cut back the plant.

If you’re in Buffalo or the Northtowns, it should be easier for you to get these plants through the winter. If you’re in ski country, it may be harder, Waterman said, because some areas are in Zone 5 and microclimates (areas in your yard that might be different from the overall climate) might go down to Zone 4. (Find your gardening zone here.)

If you’re in ski country, Waterman suggests finding a protected spot for the plants, such as in a garden closer to the house. Also, after it has finished flowering and you’ve cut back the plant, cover it completely with bark mulch or leaves. Just remember where you planted your mums, he noted.

If you’re in the Northtowns, you might not have to mulch, but if we get a cold winter with no snow cover, you might lose plants. If you want to be on the safe side, Waterman said mulching could help.

Right now, these mums aren’t blooming, so many gardeners aren’t interested in them. But remember that you have other perennials in your garden that aren’t blooming now, probably because they bloomed in spring and are already done. If you want color in your garden into autumn, one way to do that is to choose perennials that bloom in autumn. These mums will bloom in September or October, depending on the variety and the weather.

Waterman’s carries 10 varieties of mums in several colors.

Do you need color in your garden right now? Pick up one of the huge hanging baskets of annuals that Waterman’s is known for. It’s a short drive into the country, and prices are lower than they are closer to the city.

huge hanging basket at Waterman's in East Concord NY
If you want color now, Ethan Waterman suggests getting one of the huge hanging baskets of annuals that his garden center is known for. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

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4 Comments on “Trick to get mums to come back every year: Plant them now

  1. We purchased a new house that had snowball mums in the center of some landscaping off of our stone patio. They are brown and sticks right now. Do they come back as a perennial? Do I need to trim down the brown sticks now that winter is over? (I live in Illinois). I think the realtor said they were snowball mums (which were planted in August) I cant find any information telling me about these mums. Help please.

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