If you’ve 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 implies a shrug and a well, maybe from the garden center staff. Here’s why hardy doesn’t necessarily mean that your mum will survive the winter.
It all comes down to breeding. At the end of the day, there are 3 groups that mums tend to 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 won’t 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 today’s hardy mums.
By cross-breeding florist mums with garden mums, we now have a wide array of showier and more colorful chrysanthemum varieties. Often, these are what you find on today’s shelves.
However, something had to give in the breeding process for us to enjoy the spectacular range of variety we have available to us today. That something was hardiness. Today, the vast amount of mums available are considered tender perennials. AKA hardy mums. Because, yes, there is the chance they will come back, but there’s also a pretty good chance that they won’t.
So, how can up your chances for hardy mum survival?
- Plant early – Chrysanthemums have shallow root systems so they need as much time as possible to become established. Don’t put your mums in a container and then plant in the ground once they’ve finished blooming. By that time, it’s likely too late!
- Good drainage – Chrysanthemums need great 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’re just enjoying them for the fall. That won’t work in your garden though. At least 6 hours of full sun is required for ultimate flowering. Plant them with a Southern or Western exposure so they have the best flowering opportunity when they do survive the winter.
Now, all you have 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!