Chrysanthemums, or mums for short, are brilliant flowers to bring fall color to the garden. However, mums can be notoriously easy to kill. They seem to dry out and droop in an instant. Why is it so common for mums to wilt?
The most common reason that mums wilt is the soil drying out. Mums are thirsty plants that need to be watered often to keep the soil evenly moist. Watering mums too much can also be a problem, as it can lead to diseases like root rot. This is why mums need loose, well-draining soil to grow in.
The underlying reason that mums are such fragile plants has a lot to do with how they are cultivated and sold. In this article, we troubleshoot wilting mums and discuss how to keep them looking cheerful all season long.
Why Do Mums Wilt?
One of the most frustrating things about mums is how easily they wilt and die. There are a number of things that can cause mums to wilt, but most often, the reason is that they do not have enough water.
Much of the reason that mums wilt so easily is due to how they are cultivated and sold. Nurseries grow mums under optimal, climate-controlled conditions, and when they start budding just before fall, they are sent to supermarkets and garden centers in masses.
People like to buy mums that are already in flower because they add instant color to the garden. However, this is not the best for the long-term health of the plant. When plants are in flower, all their energy goes into producing blooms, not growing a strong root system.
When you buy mums from the supermarket and plant them out in the fall, this does not give them enough time to grow a healthy root system before they flower. Without a robust root system, they easily wilt when the soil gets a little dry.
The second reason that mums wilt so easily is that they like to grow in full sun. When plants are exposed to direct sun for many hours per day, the soil dries out faster than if they were growing in partial shade. Hot midday sun on already water-stressed mums is a recipe for disaster.
Overwatering also poses a risk to mums. If you water mums too often, or the soil they are in does not drain enough, the roots can develop rot from being in waterlogged soil. This can cause the plant to look wilted and unhealthy. Overwatering is most often a problem if mums are growing in shady conditions.
Can Wilted Mums Be Revived?
Mums that are wilting from too little or too much water can often be saved if you catch them in time. Whether or not wilted mums can be revived depends on how long they have been suffering.
If you notice your mums have just started looking wilted, you are in luck. But if they have been showing signs of stress for a few days and you have optimistically waited to see if they come around, they probably can’t be saved.
How to Tell if Your Mums Are Dead
Before yanking your mums out of the ground in frustration, make sure they are dead and not just severely wilted! Here’s how to tell if your mums have kicked the bucket or if there is still hope for them.
Start by checking the leaves. Is all the foliage brown and crispy? If yes, your mums are probably dead. If you can still see some signs of life – a green leaf here and there and tiny new leaf buds growing near the base of the plant – there is still hope for your mums!
If you cannot tell if your mums are dead by just looking at the leaves, invert the pot and have a look at the roots. If your mums’ roots are brown and dry, the plant is dead as a doornail. However, if there are still some white, healthy roots, your plant can be revived!
How to Revive Wilted Mums
It is quite simple to rescue wilted mums – just water them. Usually, they perk up when the soil is moist again.
To rehydrate wilted mums, place them in a tub with a few inches of water. Bottom-watering your mums will allow them to soak up as much moisture as they need. Leave the pot in the tub of water for 2 or 3 hours, then remove it and allow excess water to drain away.
You can also top water your mums to revive them. Give them a generous watering, so that excess water drains from the holes in the bottom of the pot.
How Often to Water Mums
Mums need to be watered often, especially when growing in pots. Mums growing in the ground do not need to be watered as often as potted mums.
Generally, potted mums need to be watered every second day. But how frequently you need to water your mums depends on a few factors – the daily temperature, humidity, and amount of sunlight.
If you live in a very hot, dry climate, you may need to check if they need water daily. You might only need to water them every third or fourth day in a cooler climate.
It is easy to tell when potted mums are ready to be watered. Just pick the pot up and feel the weight. If it feels light, your mums need water. If the pot still has some weight to it, you can wait a while before you water.
Do Mums Need Sun or Shade?
Mums definitely prefer growing in full sun rather than partial or full shade. They grow bushier and bloom best when they get full sun, but they can tolerate growing in part shade. Mums need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Tips for Maintaining Your Mums All Season
Want to make sure your mums look great all season long? If you take these simple steps, you will enjoy your mums for as long as possible:
Repot Them When You Buy Them
The best thing you can do for mums is to repot them as soon as you bring them home. Mums that are already in bloom when you buy them will be root bound in their nursery pot. To extend their lifespan, they need to be repotted.
Deadhead Your Mums
Keep picking the spent flowers off your mums. Doing so will keep the plant producing more flowers. When mums start producing seeds, the plant diverts energy away from flowering.
As tedious as it may seem, deadheading is essential to keeping your mums looking good all season.
Make Sure They Get Enough Sunlight
As the angle of the sun changes and the days get shorter with the seasons, you should move your potted mums around so that they always get the most sunlight. Make sure that your mums get at least 4 hours of direct sunlight every day. This will keep them blooming and looking cheerful.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.