Fall Gardening Tip: Save, Don’t Discard, Your Chrysanthemums!

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Regina Yunghans)

Well before fall even arrives, garden centers, big-box and grocery stores already have their shelves stocked with an abundance of chrysanthemums. And if you were one of those individuals quick to get a jump on decorating for the harvest season, then you’re probably living with some pretty sad looking mums right about now. So what should you be doing with all those mums that are past their prime? Whether you’re the frugal or conscious gardener, here are two tips to try for over-wintering your mums.

While most people treat chrysanthemums like a annual, they are actually a perennial (really, a tender perennial depending on your gardening zone). Now that you’re armed with that tidbit of information, how can you save money and be less wasteful with your mums?

1). Plant potted mums in the ground.

The ideal time to plant mums into the ground is the spring. This gives them time to develop enough of a root system to get them through the harsh and cold winters. That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t give this approach a whirl in the fall, you just have to keep a few things in mind for a successful outcome. Whatever you do, do not prune your mum! Unpruned plants survive at much lower temperatures than those that were pruned. The plants will also collect the twigs and leaves that fall, almost self-mulching their roots. But for added protection, be sure to add 4 to 6 inches of mulch after the ground has frozen. And if you have the ability to do so, planting your mums closer to the house will provide even better insulation to their roots. Keep in mind, the worse the winter, the less the chance of their survival.

2). Winter them indoors in a cool basement or attic.

If winters in your area are extremely cold, or you waited way too long to get them in the ground, try wintering them in a garage or basement. While these locations are probably two of the most ideal, if you don’t have either, you could try wintering them in a cold closet. Water them well and then set your potted mums in one of these locations. Ideally, in an area totally or almost totally dark with temperatures between 32ºF to 50ºF. They should be able to hibernate for the winter as long as you give enough moisture to the roots. Watering them about once a month should be efficient. Once spring arrives, acclimate your mums to light gradually and set them out in the garden after the last frost.

Do you have a trick that works well for over-wintering mums? If so, please share your success stories with us below (and don’t forget to note your gardening zone!).