Can you plant those spring or fall potted chrysanthemums sold at grocery stores in your garden? The answer depends on the plant and your growing conditions. Let’s see what it takes to grow these mums year-round.
For more, also see the Fall Garden Checklist for helpful tips and reminders.
Planting Potted Mums in the Garden
Can I plant potted chrysanthemums outside?
Maybe. Some of the potted mums we get in spring around Easter or in Fall may grow as perennials in your garden but not all of them will work.
The problem is there are dozens of species and thousands of varieties of the genus Chrysanthemum in the Asteraceae family. Each may have different cold tolerances and, because they are produced for short-term display, they often do not come with any information about their hardiness.
If you see the words “florist mums”, they are likely only hardy in zones 7 up.
And, even when they are sold as ‘hardy’, it may not mean winter hardy. Often it just means they can tolerate some light frosts before dying. Or, they are mis-labelled.
In general, mums can be hardy in zones 4 to 9, but the colder your hardiness zone, the less likely they are to survive winter conditions.
This said, if you are willing to experiment and don’t mind if it doesn’t work out, try it and see what happens.
Want to propagate cuttings instead? See How to Grow Mums From Cuttings for instructions.
Find Your Frost Dates & Hardiness Zone
- Plant Hardiness Zones | United States | Canada
These are listed on seed packets and plant tags to guide your choices.
Start With a Hardy Perennial Variety
If you want better odds, your best bet is to track down a plant nursery that has successfully tested specific varieties in your winters.
Mammoth mums are a well-known group of hardy mums sold to northern areas.
If you want to gamble with grocery store mums of unknown hardiness—and why not if you have room to experiment?—your best bet is to overwinter them in their containers in a protected space (above freezing, never letting the soil dry out).
Then, you can plant them in spring, providing lots of time to establish strong roots before their first winter in the ground.
If you just want to try planting them in fall and see what happens, I’ve listed the steps below.
Mum Hardiness Tests
University of Minnesota | zones 3-4 |
“Showy perennials that flower from August until frost, these U of M mums are uniquely developed to withstand USDA Zone 3 and 4 growing conditions and will usually overwinter when covered with a protective mulch in late fall. Mums prefer full sun and well-drained soil.”
University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science | zone 4 |
“… in research trials at the University of Vermont Horticultural Research Center in S. Burlington, of the 80 varieties trialed over a period of four years, none was found to be reliably hardy for the Burlington area, one of the milder areas of the state. Lack of a good snow cover affected the plants’ survival rate. Many of these same varieties would probably do well in areas that receive heavier snowfalls.”
Tips for Growing Mums as Perennials
These tips are for planting decorative but hardy potted chrysanthemums outdoors for year-round growing.
Choose Healthy Plants
Choose healthy potted chrysanthemums with no sign of wilt or browning. Ideally, they are budding but not yet blooming. They must be winter hardy or you’ll find out if they were after a winter in the ground.
Most people think of planting mums after they have peaked and the flowers are starting to fade. You can still try planting them at this stage but it’s not the optimum time.
Remove Flowers Before Planting
When ready to plant, first, snip off the buds or flowers so the plant puts its energy into root production. Yes, I’m saying to cut off the blooms. It’s for the best.
Allow Time for Roots to Grow Before Winter
If planting in spring, you’ve got lots of time to allow roots to form. The challenge is to be sure the plant never dries out.
If planting in fall, allow at least 6-8 weeks before first frosts. Later is a gamble but may still work.
Choose Full Sun Location
Choose a full sun location (6+ hours of sun per day) with well-draining soil. As much as they can’t tolerate dry soil, neither will they tolerate soggy soil.
If planting several, allow 18-inches between plants. Some mums get big and wide!
Do Not Let Mums Dry Out
Mums will not tolerate dry soil (they’ll die) so stay on top of the watering from the moment you get them. If it’s hard to check the soil, a moisture meter will do the job nicely.
Hold Off Fertilizing
Hold off fertilizing until spring—if your soil needs it at all.
Water Until Frosts
Water deeply, and continue watering right up until frosts begin.
Set aside several inches of mulch (compost, ground-up leaves, bark, or straw) to place around the plant after the ground freezes. Snow is also an excellent insulator.
Water During Growing Season
Resume watering in spring.
Check if ‘pinching back’ is recommended for your variety to encourage blooms in fall.
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Good luck with your planting. As said, without more information about the plant’s hardiness, it’s hard to guess whether it will grow, but it’s worth a try if you have room for it.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
How to Plant Potted Mums Outdoors to Grow as Perennials
Supplies & Materials
- 1 Chrysanthemum potted, hardy variety
- Plant 6-8 weeks before first fall frosts.
- Choose healthy potted chrysanthemums with no sign of wilt or browning. Ideally, they are budding but not yet blooming. They must be winter hardy.
- Choose a full sun location (6 hours of sun per day) with well-draining soil.
- Before planting, snip off the buds or flowers so the plant puts its energy into root production.
- Plant at same soil depth as it was in the container.
- Water deeply, and continue watering right up until frosts begin.
- Add a few inches of mulch at frost time.
- Resume watering in spring. Check if ‘pinching back’ is recommended for your variety to encourage blooms in fall.