Are Mums Perennials?

Updated: May 21, 2024

Mums are perennials that are often treated as annuals. Who can resist buying them in the fall?

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Mums, short for chrysanthemums, are probably the one fall flower that everyone recognizes. Their arrival in the garden center is also a sure sign we’re on the downward slope of the growing season.

Are Mums Perennials?

Yes, most mums are perennial flowers. Those mums that look like well-manicured mounds of foliage and flowers at garden centers are perennial flowers, generally best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 9. These plants are usually referred to as hardy mums or garden mums.

Other specialty potted mums are available in grocery stores and florist shops year-round. They’re called florist mums and are usually hardy in Zones 8 to 11.

colorful chrysanthemum flowerKatarinaGondova/Getty Images KatarinaGondova/Getty Images

What to Consider When Planting Mums 

Types of Mums to Plant

The National Chrysanthemum Society has a classification system for mums based on their flower types. They list 13 types! Many are florist mums that most of us aren’t likely to grow.

Many gardeners grow potted mums purchased from garden centers in late summer and early fall. These mums are great for adding a pop of color to the fall garden and we often treat them as annuals, tossing them at the end of the season.

Some varieties are great for growing in the garden, where they tend to be bigger and looser than those potted mums. Some varieties include:

  • ‘Sheffield Pink’ mums have light apricot-pink flowers with gold centers. They can grow up to two feet tall and spread into large clumps. They’re easy to dig, divide and share, and butterflies love them.
  • The Igloo Series of mums, which are hardier. These are a good option if you live in USDA Zones 3 to 9. They come in all the usual mum colors. ‘Pumpkin Igloo’ has orange petals with a yellow center.
  • ‘Matchsticks’ hybrid mums have spoon-shaped yellow petals with red ends. They offer an unusual look but are well-named.

When to Plant Mums

Spring is the best time to plant mums as perennials in your garden. This gives them time to grow strong roots and become well-established before winter.

However, your local garden center may not carry mums in the spring. They will be small green plants without bright flowers to attract buyers. You may have to order plants online to find mums in the spring.

If you can only find mums to purchase in the fall, plant them as soon as you buy them. They may not become established enough to overwinter. But if you have a mild winter, they may survive, so it’s worth the time to plant them. You can also treat fall-planted mums as annuals and pull them once the blooms fade.

How to Plant Mums

Female hands wearing protective garden gloves planting flowers in the gardenDzurag/Getty Images

Mums can be planted in the ground, in a container or from seeds. Whether planting in spring or fall, plant mums where they will get at least six hours of sun a day and the soil isn’t too wet. Good drainage is especially key to ensure your mums survive the winter.

If planting in containers, use a potting soil mix and be sure the container drains well. Most gardeners don’t try to grow mums from seeds, but it is possible. For best results, follow the instructions on the seed packet. The mums should bloom the first year they’re grown from seed.

Caring for Mums


When first planted, provide the equivalent of an inch of water weekly from rain or watering deeply several times a week. Once mums are established, they should not require additional watering.


If you’re unsure how fertile your soil is, add a balanced fertilizer early in the spring when planting or when you see new green growth. Then, give your mums another boost by fertilizing them in mid-summer. Mums planted in the fall, in the ground or in containers, don’t need additional fertilizer.


If left alone, many mums grown as perennials in the garden can reach up to two feet tall and wide and will develop a much looser form.

To increase blooms, prune the tip of each branch back to the first set of leaves when new foliage is about four to six inches tall. This forces the plant to produce more branches and more flower buds. You can do this pruning just once. For an even fuller plant, pinch the tips of the stems back again after they’ve grown another four to six inches.


To overwinter mums, don’t cut back all the foliage in the fall. Once the ground is cold, cover the mums with mulch to keep the ground from thawing and re-freezing. Depending on where you garden, this can be as late as November or December.

When you see the first signs of new growth coming up in the spring, remove the mulch and cut back the old foliage. If you see roots from the ground, gently push them back into the soil.


How long do mums last?

Mums planted in a good location in the garden can easily last for several years. In the spring, they can be dug up and divided, which often helps to rejuvenate the plants, further extending their lifespan.

Will mums come back every year?

Yes, mums can come back every year, but it depends on the variety you buy and the climate they’re grown in. To ensure your mums come back yearly, look for ones labeled as perennials. Make sure to plant them in the spring or early summer so they have time to establish strong roots before winter. Apply mulch in the late fall to protect from freezing temperatures and prune the dead stems in the spring after the last frost to promote new growth.

How do I know if my mum is perennial or annual?

The easiest way to determine if your mum is perennial or annual is to check the label or ask someone at the nursery or store where you bought it. If that’s not an option, you can research the color and look of your plant. Perennial mums are bushier and have sturdier stems, while annual mums are often more compact-looking.

Are potted mums perennials?

Potted mums can be perennials. Read the plant label to determine the variety of the mum to see if it’s a perennial or annual.

How do you keep mums over winter?

To keep mums planted in the ground over the winter, start by giving them a good drink. Make sure they’re in a sunny and well-drained location as well. After the first frost, apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant. Then, cut the stems back to about three to four inches once the foliage has died. If you live in an extra cold climate, consider covering the mum with burlap or a frost blanket for added protection.

As the weather warms up, regularly water and fertilize your mums. Also, cut back any dead stems to make way for new growth.

Where to Buy Mums

colorful chrysanthemum flowerKatarinaGondova/Getty Images KatarinaGondova/Getty Images

In season, mums will cost you around $10 to $20+ depending on how big of a plant you buy. Seeds will cost much less than that, but like we mentioned earlier, most gardeners don’t try to grow mums from seeds. Home Depot carries a large selection of mums. Amazon is another option. However, mums can be difficult to find when they’re out of season. You’ll have the most luck finding mums in the spring or fall.