Helping Hardy Mums Survive Cold Winters

The hardy chrysanthemum is a fall landscape staple, and greenhouses, big box stores, and even grocers know it, because starting in late August you see them for sale everywhere!

The problem is, even though hardy mums are supposed to be perennials in most zones. . .often what we plant in the fall doesn't make it through winter.  Here's why, and how you might just be able to get that mum to come back next year!

It's All About Establishment

No, not the establishment. . .just establishment.  The main reason hardy mums don't make it through winter is that they are planted so late in the growing season, their roots don't have a chance to grow and establish to the point where the plant can survive. 

There are two ways you can deal with this.  One way is to buy mums as soon as you see them go on sale, in the largest size you can find.  You basically want to give them as much time as possible to grow and establish their root system before the ground freezes.  Make sure to water deeply on a regular basis, too, as this helps the plant absorb nutrients.

The other option, and the one that GIVES you more options, is to start the plant from seed in the spring.  This is probably your best bet in getting the mum to survive the winter, because it will have lots and lots of time to establish itself. You'll also have a huge selection of colors and varieties available! 

Don't Deadhead

If you bought your mums late in the season, and don't think there's much chance they will survive winter, then you can let your plants go to seed.  There is a chance that the seeds will overwinter and start growing in the spring.

Now, most people prefer to pinch off dead flowers because it encourages the mum to continue blooming, and, honestly, it does look nicer.  But you'll need to leave at least a few dead flower heads (which is where seeds will form) if you use this technique.  Continue to water until the ground freezes, and then next spring. . .you might just see some new green growth.

I've used the above techniques with my own clients, and have had consistent good results! The mums that grow back are also usually larger and produce larger flowers the next fall because they had more time to grow.

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Linda KelsoComment