CHARLOTTE – It’s a good question and one that often comes up in the fall, when garden centers are full of beautiful, flowering pots of them. Mums, also known as Chrysanthemums, can be divided into two distinct categories: garden and floral. These two varieties are bred with different goals in mind, and this results in very different lifespans.
Floral mums are planted in the fall and pretty much all their energy is devoted to blooming. This makes for some spectacular blossoms, but it doesn’t give the plant enough time or resources to put down a good root system before the frost. It is because of this the floral mum lifespan rarely lasts through the winter.
Garden mums, on the other hand, are usually planted in the spring and will bloom all summer and autumn. With plenty of time to put down roots, garden mums can live for three to four years in USDA zones 5 through 9. The Charlotte Region is in Zone 7.
Although the lifespan of mums in the garden should last a few years, there are ways to help the process along. Be sure to plant your garden mums in the spring to give them as much time as possible to get established. Plant them in a spot that receives full sun. Prune your plant throughout the season, as this will make for more compact, fuller blossoming, as well as allow the plant to divert more energy to root growth. Water steadily until the first frost. The first frost will kill some of the growth, which you should cut away and remember to mulch the plant heavily. When temperatures warm in the spring, pull the mulch back. You should start seeing rapid new growth.
Of course, not every plant, even if it’s a perennial, manages to make it through the winter. The mum lifespan is only three to four years and while it could last longer than that, it will get more susceptible to winter damage with each passing year.