Close your eyes and imagine the flora of autumn. What is coming to mind?
There is likely an overgrown pumpkin vine in the corner, maybe some yellow and red leaves on the trees. And some bright chrysanthemums are sitting near the front door, right?
Hardy mothers are an icon of autumn. When most of the garden is talking about a day, they are brighter and bolder than ever.
You can find them practically everywhere as summer begins to fade, popping up at grocery store entrances and lining the dwindling shelves of kindergartens.
But if you're like me, the thought of enjoying its vibrant blooms for a month or two is very special just to toss out the perfectly healthy plants when winter is over.
Instead of saying goodbye to your mothers, this year I'm going to teach you how to winterize them so you can enjoy them again next year.
Not only will you save a bit of money and avoid unnecessary waste, mothers can get pretty big in the ground too, with an impressive presence in the years to come if you can care for them over the winter.
That's a pretty big payout for not too much hassle. We're going to cover the following so you can do it:
Before we get started, if you want to learn more about the general care of these beautiful plants, We have a whole guide to get you started.
Ready to go? Let's winterize these mothers!
A little bit about mothers
In order to winterize mothers, there are a few things you should know about these plants.
First of all, you need to make sure you have the type that can live as an outdoor perennial even in freezing weather.
There are many types of mothers, but some of them are not as sturdy as others.
In a broader sense, you can divide the genus chrysanthemums into hardy and exhibition types.
Show mothers generally have shallow roots and must be staked out to hold up their massive flower heads. These are the types that will win you blue ribbons at flower fairs and who cannot hibernate outdoors.
Hardy mothers (generally hybrid chrysanthemum × morifolium, although you can often find the generic name on plant labels without a specific species) are the ones you see everywhere in late summer just asking to be added to an autumn flower in the garden, autumn table, or harvest arrangement on the porch . These are also often referred to as garden mothers.
While most are suitable for outdoor growing in zones 5 through 9, some strains are even tougher, such as. B. "Mammoth Daisy Coral", which can survive the cold up to Zone 3.
"Mammoth Daisy Coral"
It has beautiful coral-colored daisy flowers on plants that can grow up to three feet tall and four feet wide.
You can Get one for your own garden in Burpee.
"Mammoth Daisy Quill Yellow" is also considered particularly hardy and can survive winter outdoors in zone 3.
"Mammoth Daisy Quill Yellow"
It has unique petals that resemble small paddles that surround yellow centers. Burpee wears these beauties too.
But the gardening mothers you find at the garden center seasonally don't always resemble daisies with petals surrounding a center disc. These gorgeous fall bloomers come in maroon, rust, red, orange, yellow, pink, lavender, and white and are tough up to zone 4 – if you know how to care for them.
Next, you need to be sure that you can provide the plants with the conditions they like during the growing season. That means a full sun location and well-drained soil.
But there's a catch: you don't want to immediately put new potted plants that you bought or received this fall in the ground if you want to ensure their best chance of survival as perennial flowers.
Once the growing season is over in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 7, you will need to either move the potted plants indoors or provide adequate winter protection for established plants growing in the ground.
In zone 8 and above, you can generally let the plants do their thing once they are planted in the ground. This is because you usually don't get a deep, prolonged freeze in these regions.
However, if frost is predicted in warmer areas, you will want to provide additional protection. Burlap or an overturned cardboard box may work in a pinch, and mulching is also recommended. I'll go into that in more detail below.
Regardless of what type of nut you grow, container plants are more prone to cold winter weather than those that grow in the ground. These need to be winterized in Zone 7 and below if you want them to survive.
When to plant
It's hard to resist those lively and oh-so-affordable love affairs that beckon you off the shelves this fall.
However, if you are hoping to keep your plants in the ground all year round then you should really wait until they are planted out in spring.
If you plant in the fall, your lovely mothers may not be able to put down roots fast enough to stay alive in the cold winter.
On top of that, you probably bought a plant that was in its full glory, which means it went out of its way to produce beautiful buds rather than building a sturdy root system.
Plan to bring any sturdy mums you've been given or bought around the house in the fall over winter. You can plant them in the ground the following spring if you wish.
You will also want to repot them and remove your new mums from the container they came in, whether you want to keep them in pots or ultimately plant them in the ground.
Commercial growers often let them become root-bound so that they appear healthy and robust in kindergarten and overflow from their containers.
If you live in a warmer area with mild winters in zone 8 and above, your mothers can plant in late summer or early fall. Remember, however, that spring planting is still best to give your plants a chance to establish themselves.
As winter approaches, you want to give any plants you plant in the ground in spring or in earlier years the best possible chance of survival.
For information on new plants acquired in the fall, see the section on potting mothers below or our guide to growing mothers indoors (soon!).
If you have plants that are already in the ground, start killing used flowers in early to mid fall.
Mothers naturally begin to bloom in late summer and begin to fade in autumn as soon as the first frost hits. At the beginning of the season, deadheading encourages continuous flowering. Completely cut off dead flowers at the end of the season.
As soon as the first frost sets in, the foliage turns brown. I know it's hard, but resist the urge to cut away the dead stuff. You'll want to leave it there to give your plant some protection.
Mulch, mulch and more mulch
In case you didn't get the picture from the headline, I'll try to be clearer: mulch is key.
Six inches of organic mulch material like leaves or straw goes a long way in isolating your plants in the ground. Think of it as a great, cozy down comforter for your garden.
It's handy here to leave the dead leaves in place. These dead leaves will help hold the mulch in place so it doesn't blow away.
However, do not bury the leaves. Just tuck lots of mulch around the base of your plants and spread it out twice as far in all directions as the foliage.
This will help protect the roots when the hard frost comes.
Come back all winter and see if the mulch is still in place. Replace it as needed.
When the plant sends out new shoots in the spring, you can remove the mulch and, if desired, swap it around your plants to retain moisture.
Protect your plants
As an extra layer of protection, you can place some conifer branches over your plants. Don't use pine needle mulch, as the needles can compact and choke your plants.
You shouldn't attach your conifer branches until after the first hard freeze.
If you live in an area where the temperatures don't get so cold until after the holidays, you can reuse your living branches or Christmas trees when you no longer use them for decorating.
In the remaining months of the long, cold winter, they form a nice additional protective layer for upcycling.
Check them out throughout the season to make sure they stay in place. As soon as temperatures are consistently above freezing or green shoots are sticking out, you can remove the branches.
Winter care for potters
Pot mothers do not survive outdoors in cold weather in most areas.
Plants that grow in the ground can handle air temperatures below 20 ° F because the roots are isolated from the surrounding soil. However, plants that grow in containers do not have this protection.
To avoid exposing plants from containers to freezing temperatures, you need to overwinter them indoors.
Before moving them, repot your plants in slightly larger containers.
You want them to have enough space to be comfortable and grow in the spring before putting them back outside. Just make sure that the pots have a 1/2-inch drainage hole for every square foot of soil surface.
Then trim the plant back by about a quarter and remove any used flowers.
Miracle-Grow Performance Organics fertilizer
Apply a slow-release fertilizer high in phosphorus to help nourish the roots for the next few months and as soon as they emerge from dormancy in the spring. Miracle-Gro is a good product for flowering plants, and you can get your hands on some of them via Amazon.
Check out the weather report. When you see the first hard frost, take your chrysanthemum to your basement or an unheated garage. You'll want to place it in a place where the temperature stays between 32 and 55 ° F so your plant can rest.
Pour it lightly. You don't want the soil to be too damp. The moisture level you should aim for is roughly similar to that of a well-wrung sponge.
Place a few inches of straw or mulch around the base of the plant and cover the whole thing with a piece of burlap or cotton cloth.
Check the pot about once a week in winter to make sure the soil isn't too dry. Water only when the soil feels about two inches dry.
At some point in spring, small green shoots will form in the soil when the plant emerges from hibernation. When you see new growth, it's time to remove winter mulches and carefully remove dead leaves. Then apply a 5-10-5 (NPK) fertilizer.
This is also the time to bring potted plants back outside.
Pinch off new shoots at the tips when they are about four to five inches long to encourage bushy growth.
Get used to the outdoors again
After all danger of frost has passed in spring, potted plants can be hardened outdoors.
Move the plant outside and put it in a shady spot for an hour. Then bring them back inside.
Leave it outside for two hours the next day. Take it outdoors for three hours on day three, four hours on day four, and so on.
When you can keep the plant outdoors eight hours a day, it's time to gradually acclimate it to its sunny, permanent location.
Put the plant back in an area overnight that will be in the shade during the day. The next day, put it in the direct sun for an hour and then back in the shade. Gradually add an hour of full sun exposure each day until the plant is in direct sunlight for eight hours.
Now it's ready to go into the ground. To bring your plant to its new home, dig a hole about one and a half times the width of the container it was grown in.
Plant the plant in the soil at the same depth as before, with the bottom of the potting soil also matching that in the hole, and carefully pack the dirt around the roots. Give it a good bath.
Make Hardy Mums a part of your yard all year round
That wasn't too difficult, was it?
It always seems daunting to try to keep a plant alive through the winter when I can't just let nature do its thing.
But once you've tried it, and you're like me, you'll find that it wasn't that hard to overwinter your mothers for perennial enjoyment after all.
After protecting my mothers for several years, I had the largest plants in the neighborhood, and my neighbors constantly praised my massive display. After telling them the secrets of my success, my forest neck became a paradise for mothers.
Do not forget that you can Share your plants every couple of years so it's like getting some new chrysanthemums for free!
How do you like to decorate with mothers in autumn? Have you had success growing your fall decorations as perennials? Share your stories and photos in the comments below!
Do you want to grow a few more plants Add color to the garden in the autumn? These guides should get you on the right track:
About Kristine Lofgren
Kristine Lofgren is a writer, photographer, reader, and garden enthusiast based outside of Portland, Oregon. She grew up in the Utah desert and set off for the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs in 2018. Her passion these days is focused on growing ornaments and foraging in the urban and suburban landscape.