Pink mum flowers with yellow centers.  Why Your Hardy Mums Die.

Why Your Hardy Mums Die

If you have ever planted a hardy mum in the fall and hoped for its return the following spring, only to be left with an empty spot in your garden, you’re not alone. 

Yes, hardy does imply that your mum will survive the winter. It also suggests a shrug and a well, maybe from the garden center staff. Here’s why the term hardy doesn’t necessarily mean that your mum will survive the winter.

What type of Mums are there?

There are 3 groups that mums land in — Florist, Perennial (garden), and Hardy.

Florist mums are used in the cut-flower industry and tend to have larger flowers. Many florist mums will not survive in the Midwest unless you own a greenhouse.

Perennial mums, or garden mums, are far more reliable in the Midwest. The majority of the perennial mums that are available today are Korean hybrids. These hybrids are also commonly used as breeding stock for the mums you purchase in the fall.

By cross-breeding florist mums with perennial mums, plant breeders have created varieties that are far showier than the typical perennial mums. These are the mums that are considered hardy.

Red MIllet surrounded by red flowering mums on garden center table.

Why don’t my Mums come back?

Something had to give in the breeding process for us to enjoy the spectacular range of color and variety we have available to us today. That something was hardiness. 

Today, the vast amount of hardy mums you purchase in the fall are considered tender perennials. Because, yes, there is the chance they will come back, but there is also a pretty good chance that they won’t.

Burgundy foliage of Red Millet in blue glazed urns with yellow mums.

How can I increase the chance of my hardy Mum’s survival?

  • Plant early – Chrysanthemums have shallow root systems and need as much time as possible to become established. If you plant your mums in a container, the chance of survival drops if you wait to transplant into the ground after blooming.
  • Good drainage – Chrysanthemums need good drainage for overwintering success. Be sure to improve your drainage by adding compost to your soil.
  • Sun – Yes, you can put mums in the shade if you are just enjoying them for the fall. However, when planted in the garden, a mum needs at least 6 hours of full sun for best flowering. Plant them with Southern or Western exposure, so they have the best flowering opportunity when they do survive the winter.

You’ve taken great care to ensure your mums survival. Now, all you need to do is wait out the winter. So grab yourself a warm cup of tea and anticipate the arrival of spring and the emergence of the deep green foliage of chrysanthemums!