Indoor Mum Care: Growing Chrysanthemums Indoors


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Chrysanthemums are common gift plants and can be found as such year round. This is because they have been tricked into blooming by either hormones or manipulation of light exposure. They can be quite difficult to get to re-bloom in an interior setting, but in warmer climes they should be planted outside where they can get the appropriate lighting and resume their normal bloom schedule.

Potted mums are not the same as the hardy varieties that go into garden beds. They are more sensitive to cold and light changes, but you can find them any time of the year and bloom for several weeks in the home interior. Growing chrysanthemums indoors is easy and requires little special care beyond watering, good soil and drainage. Once the blooms are spent, you can keep the plant around for its deeply etched foliage.

How to Grow Mums Indoors

Mums are generally ready for interior growth at purchase. If the plant is pot bound, you can transplant it to a slightly bigger container, with good drainage holes and fresh houseplant soil. An important tip on how to grow mums indoors is to position your plant inside where it receives bright light during the day but isn’t under a street or security light at night. Excess lighting can throw the plant’s bloom production off and cause it to stop flowering.

Regular watering is a crucial part of indoor mum care. Water the plant from under the leaves to help prevent fungal issues when caring for container mums. Deadhead if you wish, to keep the plant looking its best. Keep chrysanthemum houseplants where they can receive good air circulation and avoid excess humidity.

In most cases, caring for container mums is a short lived project. This is because they flower for 3 to 4 weeks and then stop. Indoor conditions are not correct to force them to re-bloom and creating the correct conditions is a pain in the neck. For this reason, most indoor gardeners simply compost the plants after they are done flowering. This may seem heartless, but mums are relatively inexpensive and very easy to find.

The plant doesn’t have much to offer after the flowers are done except some deeply notched foliage and a nice little bush shape. During the time you have it in your home, it shouldn’t need feeding. If you wish to keep the plant around, do fertilize it in the growing season once per month with a soluble plant food and suspend feeding in the winter season.

Can You Keep Mums Inside Over Winter?

Obviously growing chrysanthemums indoors is possible, but the real question is will it flourish and bloom and, if not, what do we do with the plant? Each mum cultivar is slightly different but on average it takes 9 ½ hours to force buds and 10 ½ hours for flowers to form. Add to this a requirement of 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 C.) for bud formation and 55 F. (12 C.) for flower development. Most households do not have the cooler temperature available nor do they want to live in the dark that long.

You can successfully keep a mum around the home all year long if you wish with very little attention beyond watering. A better option for anyone in temperate to warm zones (USDA zones 8 and above) is to plant the mum in the ground. The indoor plants are not terribly hardy but if you mulch the root zone the plant will probably live, re-sprout in spring and bloom in fall as an outdoor specimen.

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Originally known as the chusan daisy in China before its introduction to Versailles in 1847, the little button chrysanthemum's (Dendranthema x grandiflorum) new name came from the similarity to the pompoms on the hats of French sailors. These stiff and dense flowers give a globe-shaped pop of color to your indoor fall garden.


Hardy Chrysanthemum Care

Plant mums as soon as the soil warms in the spring. From late spring to mid-summer, pinch back the tips and flower buds on all shoots to make the plant bushier and prepare it for a dramatic fall show. For optimal blooming, the plants should be fertilized regularly throughout the growing season. After the blooms fade, cut the plants down to about 6 inches, and cover them with straw or another dry mulch to protect the roots over winter. Established plants should be lifted and divided every two to three years.

Mums can make a wonderful impact in containers. But when planted in mixed borders, they will end your garden season with a bang. That's especially true when you pair them with other late-season bloomers, such as sedum, goldenrod, Russian sage, asters, and gaillardia.

Furthermore, because mums flower so late in the season, they are nondescript, though not unattractive, in the garden until blooming time. Thus, they are best planted next to early bloomers. As the spring flowers die back, the mums will fill in and hide their unattractive fading foliage.

Light

Mums thrive in full sun but can handle a bit of shade. Generally, flowering will be most profuse if they are grown in full sun. However, in warm climates, the plants often appreciate some shade during the heat of the afternoon. Mums set buds in response to day length, so avoid confusing them by planting where they might be exposed to bright nighttime light from a patio or window or even a streetlight.

These flowers can handle several soil types, but they do best in rich soil that has sharp drainage. Poor soil drainage will cause the plants to rot. They like a soil pH slightly on the acidic side.  

Water

Mums require a lot of water. Give them 1 inch per week during the early growing season, and then increase this to two or three times a week as the flower buds mature and the flowers begin to open.

When growing in a pot, water the soil surface, using a watering can, until moisture begins to drain from the bottom of the pot (make sure the pot has drainage holes). Water should drain freely through the soil and out the bottom of the pot when watering. Soil should remain moist, but not soggy. Soggy soil can cause root rot and other diseases.

Temperature and Humidity

Mums do best in moderate climate conditions. Extreme heat can cause the plants to struggle. And regions with hard winter freezing can see the plants succumb to cold unless they are covered with deep mulch. Mums prefer some humidity, but if the humidity is high, make sure they have good air circulation to prevent rot or disease.

For fall-planted mums to have a better chance of survival in cold areas, you need to give the roots and crown of the plant extra protection. First, leave the foliage on the plants until spring. Do not prune them back after frost has turned them brown. Then, either mulch the plants heavily with at least 4 to 6 inches of mulch or dig up a pot, and move the plants to a more protected spot in the garden for the winter. If you choose to move the plants, do so before the first hard freeze.

In warmer climates, consider heat delay. If you have high temperatures, particularly at nighttime, it can cause the plant to flower later than it usually would. Heat delay can cause irregularly formed flower buds, erratic flowering, deformation of the plant’s crown, and other developmental issues. To bypass this problem in hotter climates, look for cultivars with higher heat tolerance.

Fertilizer

It is crucial to provide nitrogen and potassium to chrysanthemums during their vegetative phase. Feed the plants before flower buds form to promote healthy roots, bud development, and a vigorous plant.   Start a feeding cycle in March, April, or May, depending upon your zone. You can get a time-released fertilizer (12-6-6), which feeds the plants for about three months. With this fertilizer, you might only need to feed the plants once. The general rule of thumb is to begin after all danger of frost has passed. That way any new growth forced by the nutrients will not be in danger of damage from icy weather. Established plants should not be fed after July, so new growth is not injured by frost.


How to Take Care of Mums (Indoors and Out)

Regardless of whether you’re getting your mums for inside your home or outside, if you want their blooms to last the longest, get ones where the flowers haven’t opened yet. Unless of course, you have a party or something happening soon and you need the mums for your decor. In that case, it’d be best to get fully flowered ones, rather than waiting and hoping the flowers open in time.

Taking Care of Mums Indoors

1. If you want to take care of your mums indoors, the first thing you should do is to make sure they’re in a pot with adequate room for their roots to grow. Also, the pot should be filled with a good potting mix that provides decent drainage. Alot of us just buy mums for fall decor and just stick them in a pretty pot while still in their black garden center pot. Your mums will last longer if you actually take the time to repot them.

2. Next, make sure your mums are getting enough sunlight. Mums love the sun, so indoor mums will do their best if placed close to a window that lets a lot of sunlight in everyday.

3. Also make sure to give your mums enough water. And don’t just pour water over the top of them and let it drip down into the soil. That’s just asking for the plants to develop fungi. Instead, water close to the roots of the plant, saturating the soil, not the leaves or too much of the stems. Mums should be watered frequently when first potted, then given about 1 inch of water a week, once they’re more established. If their leaves start to wilt, they need to be watered more frequently. Indoor mums should not need plant food or extra fertilizer.

4. Lastly, don’t forget to “deadhead” your mums as necessary. To deadhead your mums, you can use your fingers or pruning shears to pinch off any dead flowers. Try to cut them off above the next set of leaves on the stem. You can also remove dead leaves when deadheading. Deadheading your mums helps to both make your mums look neater and prettier, and helps to extend how long they bloom.

Different varieties of mums grow and flower at different rates. But in general, indoor mums only flower for about 1 month. Once the flowers are gone, you’re essentially left with a little bushy green plant. At that point you can choose to compost your mums, or try to transplant them outside.

If you choose to transplant them, you may want to wait until spring depending on what zone you’re in. Since I live in Georgia, I’ve always been able to plant my mums even as late as December and still have them come back the following year. Also, since indoor varieties tend not to be as hardy as outdoor ones, do your best to give your outdoor transplants extra mulch. An indoor mum successfully transplanted outside should bloom again the next fall.

Taking Care of Mums Outside

Just as it’s easy to take care of your chrysanthemums indoors, it’s very easy to take care of mums outside!
1. Like indoor mums, outdoor mums should be planted in a place where they have plenty of space. They have shallow roots and don’t thrive well when in areas with other plants’ roots to compete with. A good rule is to keep them at least 18 inches apart (remember, they’ll get bushier as they grow!). They should be placed in a hole that’s about a foot deep, so their roots are appropriately covered but their leaves are free. Mums do especially well if planted in soil that has compost added.

2. Watering outdoor mums is pretty much the same as indoor mums especially if they are still in their pots. Give them plenty of water in the week or so after planting, then give them about one inch per week after that. Don’t let them wilt.

3. Unlike indoor mums, if you want to take care of your mums outdoors you will want to fertilize them. But you don’t need to fertilize them until the next growing season when they start to get new growth. At that point, they should be fertilized at least once a month until August.

4. Outdoor mums may also need to be overwintered depending on what zone you’re in. To do this, before the first hard frost hits, you need to mulch your mums very well. Give them straw or wood chips, and pile it high, surrounding the entire base of the plant. If the winter’s frost blackens your mums (more common in the northern states than in the south), just cut them down so they’re only about an inch high, keeping the mulch at least 3 inches high. You can deadhead your mums when overwintering, but don’t prune any stems until the weather gets warmer (excluding cases where you have to cut blackened mums back). When the weather starts to warm up you can also start spreading the mulch out further to make room for the mums’ new growth.

More Mum Info

You technically can also overwinter your mums indoors, though it can be a bit tricky. Once the first frost has blackened them and you’ve cut them down, put them in a pot and bring them into a dark place that is cool (between 32-50°F). Outside in a shed will probably be too cold, so you may have to do this in your garage or basement. Insulate the pot by surrounding it with several layers of newspapers, or an old blanket. Don’t forget to water your mums during their indoor overwintering. 1-2 inches of water 3 times a month is usually enough, but don’t let the soil get dry.

In the spring, when it’s about a week out from the last expected frost, take your potted mums outside to where you’ll want to keep them in the spring through fall. Leave them there for 2-3 hours, then bring them back in. Each day repeat this, and each day add an hour onto that time. When the final frost has passed, your mums are ready to live back outside again.

If you keep growing your mums over several years, after 3 years, it may be good to move them somewhere else in your yard. This reduces the chance of disease and pest infestations. You also need to divide your mums every 3-4 years. Do this in the spring when the plants are creating new growth. Dividing mums is easy. Just use a spade or knife to cut the outer parts of the plants from the center. You can then compost the center and spread out your divided mums into new holes with fresh soil.

Lastly, don’t forget to regularly deadhead your outdoor mums, too! It’ll keep them looking nice. You might also want to pinch your mums’ buds to make them bloom as much as possible. This doesn’t need to be done on mature fall plants, but it should be done on younger mums that you plant in the spring. From the first growth of buds until July, every 2-4 weeks you’ll want to pinch off half of the new growth that your mums have produced at the top of their stems. The stems don’t all have to have flower buds on them.

So as you can see, mums are pretty easy to care for. They’re not very delicate, and pinching, pruning, and dividing them takes hardly takes any time. That’s why mums are a wonderful choice of flower for your home, indoors or out!

Have you ever grown mums before?

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How to care for room chrysanthemum

Many believe that this plant is best grown in the garden. In fact, indoor chrysanthemums are no less popular. In addition, there is a special group that includes several varieties of chrysanthemums intended for home cultivation. Therefore, if you adhere to all of the above requirements and provide the plant with the necessary conditions, then you can easily grow a lush and flowering bush.

As a rule, indoor chrysanthemum is at rest until spring. In this case, to cover the flower or to produce additional watering is useless. It would be more correct to move the pot to a cooler and darker place. Water the plant should be every two weeks, so that the roots are not completely dry. After a long hibernation, the plant can be put in its original place and watch how new sprouts germinate.


Common Issues

Although some mum species produce pyrethrum, a naturally-occurring pesticide that paralyzes insects that come into contact with it and is one the strongest insecticide allowed under National Organic Standards guidelines, there are still some pests willing to have a mum meal.

Aphids are one of the most common pests that will afflict mums grown indoors. Search leaves for the presence of these tiny pests with soft bodies that come in a in a variety of colors, such as green, yellow, or black. They often gather in groups on the undersides of leaves. Check for distorted foliage and the presence of a sticky substance called honeydew, which aphids secrete from their anus as they suck fluid from plant tissue. They basically poop Kool-Aid. Gross! (Actually, forming a symbiotic relationship, some species of ants collect, or "milk," honeydew directly from aphids, which benefit from their presence due to their driving away predators such as lady beetles or parasitic wasps. … That’s a whole other blog post.)

Wash aphids off of mum plants with a soap mixture of 2 teaspoons of mild detergent per gallon of water, suggests the University of Missouri Extension. Saturate plants with a low-toxicity insecticide, such as an insecticidal soap. In the case of heavy infestation, prune or pinch off heavily infested plant parts.

Another common pest is the leafminer. Look for the tunnels they create as they feed into plant tissue. Look below the plant for leaf drop, which often occurs as a result of damage.

Remove with pruning shears and destroy plant material affected by leafminers, such as mined leaves. Apply neem oil to plant surfaces to kill leafminers, making sure to thoroughly saturate the mum plant. Plants rarely suffer severe damage as a result of these pests.


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