Garden Mum vs Florist Mum: What’s the Difference?

Updated: Sep. 21, 2023

Garden centers are filled with gorgeous chrysanthemum plants in fall. But should you choose a garden mum or a florist mum?

Are Garden Mums the Same as Florist Mums?

Dark pink mumsCourtesy Hope Grasser

If you’ve ever been at a garden center and looked at a tag on a beautiful chrysanthemum plant (Chrysanthemum morifolium), you might see it labeled as a garden mum, hardy mum, florist mum or pot mum. It’s time to break down the differences between these common types of mums. Plus, learn how to best care for both garden mums and florist mums.

Psst—here’s why you shouldn’t plant mums in fall.

Garden Mums Are Perennials

Tribeca Amber Orange garden mumBall Horticultural Company
Tribeca Amber Orange garden mum

A garden mum is sometimes referred to as a hardy mum. Garden mums are typically grown as hardy perennials in garden beds or in pots. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9, they’re a great pick for mass plantings.

If you want to grow these mums, you should plant them in spring after the last frost or in the fall six weeks before the first killing frost. Keep in mind that they will grow up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

Garden mums require at least five or six hours of sun per day and well-draining soil.

Looking for other colorful autumn blooms? heck out the best fall flowers (that aren’t mums).

Florist Mums Are Annuals

Chatham Orange pot mum Ball Horticultural Company
Chatham Orange pot mum

Also known as a pot mum, a florist mum is typically sold as an annual to use as fall decorations in containers or as gift plants.

These blooms, with their long overlapping petals, typically last six to eight weeks. When you’re shopping for florist mums, be sure to buy plants that have lots of closed buds so you’ll be able to enjoy more blooms later on. In addition, you’ll want to water these mums often to keep them happy.

If you’re looking for florist mums with a lot of pop, pick Artistic Armin for its pink petals lined with white or the bright red Cardinal Time.

Fall in love with Jacqueline peach fusion garden mums.

Can Mums Survive the Winter in Pots?

Bnbbyc19 Danna Cable 1Courtesy Danna Cable
Frost on mums

“I have a beautiful mum plant. Is there a way to keep it in my home throughout the cooler winter months?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Mary Moore of Wautoma, Wisconsin.

Horticultural expert Melinda Myers: It is challenging to keep a mum growing indoors over the winter. Mums purchased in full bloom in the fall are often referred to as garden mums. These may be either perennial mums or “florist” mums forced to flower for fall displays, which are best as annuals. But you can try growing potted mums in a sunny window or under artificial lights. Water when the top inch of soil is starting to dry.

If you have a hardy mum, you may want to try overwintering it outdoors. Mums sold as perennials are hardy enough to survive in the zones noted on the plant tag and will flower in late summer or early fall, providing weeks of color in the garden. These are often sold alongside other plants labeled as perennial or promoted as hardy for the area. If you determine your mum is hardy, you can plant it in the garden or sink the pot in the ground in a sheltered location.

Because blooming hardy mums planted in fall are expending energy on flowering instead of producing a robust root system, it’s a good idea to cover them with straw or evergreen boughs for added insulation once the ground freezes.

Next, learn how to grow and care for New England asters.