Mum’s the word

Well, the evaluation has taken place.  Early last August, I purchased 36 potted mums, two varieties that are supposed to be hardy in our Zone 5 area, and planted them strategically in the gardens.  I wanted to get them in early so they’d have longer to get established and have a better chance to survive over the winter.  All of the plants were mulched after planting.  When the season ended, half the mums were trimmed and half were left intact, some in each garden and some of each variety for test purposes.  I’ve heard that untrimmed mums winter and return better than those that are trimmed.  I’d really rather not to have to purchase 36 mums again, so even though I prefer tidy gardens I was willing to leave some ugliness if it resulted in major cost-savings.

Overall, we had a fairly mild winter, although a wet one.  We did have one period of temperature plunge into the low teens, without the usual snow-cover to temper it, which is hard on plants.  I’d guess we had about the normal amount of freeze-thaw action.  So here’s the count…drum rolls and trumpets, please…….

Untrimmed mums alive and showing new growth…0 (Yes, that’s zero, nada, zilch.)  This is typical of all the mums that were left untrimmed.  Dead…..dead….dead.

Trimmed mums alive and showing new growth….1!  Just ONE!

Trimmed mum living compressed  It’s just beginning to grow.

What a sad outcome.  Neither method was truly successful, so I’ll probably repeat the trial next autumn.  Looks like I’ll be purchasing 36 mums again for fall.  I’m hoping to get them even earlier and into the ground before they get pot-bound, and I’ll try to find different, hardier varieties.  In the meantime, I’m waiting a bit longer before pulling them out just in case any of the others begin to show life, but I’m not holding my breath in hope.  I am trimming them all.  They’ve been adding “ugly” to the garden long enough, and my new motto is “If it’s adding to the ugly, and not the beauty, off or out it goes.”

Did your mums return?  Did you trim them or not?  I’d be interested in hearing other results.  Herbal blessings, Carolee

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
This entry was posted in garden maintenance, gardening, mums, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Mum’s the word

  1. bcparkison says:

    Don’t you just hate this. Heart breaking, but…life and gardening must go on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sharon says:

    I only have 3, they are in largish pots. In the garden during the summer, back in the polytunnel during winter. I think its the cold wet that finishes them off. A tiny silver lining occurs to me with your situation: Once the survivor’s shoots are a decent size you can take basal cuttings and increase the plants by a modest number. I don’t trim mine and take cuttings every year.


    • carolee says:

      I’ll certainly give a few cuttings a try, but I don’t have a good set-up anymore for doing cuttings. Used to take 4,000 lavender cuttings every Aug. but I had a professional system. Time for more experimenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sharon says:

        Then a few chrysanthemum cuttings will be a breeze! My set up is a 6×8 greenhouse and zip-loc poly bags to create mini propagators.


  3. cavershamjj says:

    Shame about the plants. Still it’s good data, an output from your trial. Tells you something, at least. Fully agree with your ruthless approach to ugly. There are several plants in my garden that are living on borrowed time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loretta says:

    Oh that’s sad and heartbreaking! Especially since there were so many. I do believe the hardy type is key to having them return again and again. It’s hard to say though, because sometimes the less hardier make it. A mystery for sure, but a lesson learned. Will wait to hear your outcome this fall.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Marilyn Bulmahn says:

    I have six golden yellow mums on the Southside of our machine shed. I trim them each fall. They seem to love it and thrive. I so appreciate your posts. They keep me alert and encourages me to keep investigating and trying new things. My lavender is starting to grow at the bottom. This will be their 3rd year. I trim them back each fall into a ball. You introduced me to lavender and they bring joy daily. Especially baking lavender cookies! Yum!!!


  6. It’s hard to lose any plant, let alone that many.
    I had some hardy mums that lasted for several years, then just didn’t come back one year.
    The latest “hardy” mums I bought 2 years ago never did come back. I don’t know if the strains are getting fussier or the winters are getting weirder, but I’m just not counting on them anymore.
    I love them. I’ll buy them. But—I won’t expect their return in Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. seasons55 says:

    So frustrating to say the least, mums tend to be fickle in my garden, I usually dead head them as the flower die off and usually after the season they will come back depending on the color, yellow and white always return while red, purple and orange are a gamble. I live in Florida so our season is longer and mums tend to start off great in the autumn and return mid winter and again in spring. Good luck with you next trial.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting experiment. In my Wisconsin garden, it seems that the mums I think are the loveliest mums are the ones that don’t survive. They sure do add a punch of color to the fall garden, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m south of you in Greene County. Mums don’t overwinter here. I’ve been using a lot of asters to overwinter, and I love them, but they aren’t the same colors as the mums.


  10. cavershamjj says:

    Maybe you need to accept that they won’t survive your winters. Can you take cuttings in the autumn as an insurance policy? Cheaper than replacing the plants each year. And fun too…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I must admit I’ve never bought 36 of anything, and the only mums I have are hardy. I wish you the best of luck with your continued experiment. 🙂


  12. My mums come back each year here in Missouri. I don’t cut them back until spring. Maybe try covering them completely with mulch to give them a nice blanket for the winter.


  13. Linda says:

    Don’t pull them out just yet. They might surprise you. When I had them, I never trimmed them and they always came back… slowly, but they came back.


  14. simoneharch says:

    What a disaster. Do you absolutely love those plants, I’m thinking yes for you to try this experiment again?! I’ll be honest – I don’t know what a ‘mum’ is…. is it a chrysanthemum?


    • carolee says:

      Yes, mum is short for chrysanthemum….not your mother! HA! They are “Supposed” to be hardy, but I’m finding that as the years pass, fewer of them that are available on the market are truly winter hardy. I suspect they do that on purpose, so consumers will have to purchase new ones every fall. And, I know that the colors I want are less hardy than purple or yellow.


  15. Jackie Powers says:

    I have 2 hardy mums that come back every year for about 5 years. I usually buy about 12 each year, so that is not a good return rate after considering how many I have put in over the years. I had the best luck with a couple I got from your farm, but 2 years ago, they didn’t make it back again. Sorry about yours


  16. Jackie Powers says:

    And, the ones that do come back, I do not normally trim them back in the fall, just in the Spring when I see new growth coming in. They are in a protected location in my front garden. Ones that are more exposed over the winter never make it back

    Liked by 1 person

  17. skokisok says:

    I had a bit of luck by cutting back hard in the fall, digging up the rootball, placing in wooden crates, covered with used container soil


  18. thickethouse says:

    Try Clara Curtis for a mum that comes back again and again.


    • carolee says:

      Clara Curtis and Sheffield Hills do come back for me, but they are not the orange/bronze color that I need. In fact, they both spread like crazy, so I’m moving them to the new cutting garden.


  19. Wow – SO interesting. I am in South Jersey & get about a 1/4 return per year. It’s def. a risky business. I do buy my mums from a local farmer – sometimes they are in the pot only a day or two. Perhaps that short out – of -ground time helps them out?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s