Outdoor Fall Decorating with Mums | Midwest Living

Outdoor Fall Decorating with Mums

Mums make a striking statement in containers or in your fall garden. Here are tips for choosing mum colors and ideas for pairing mums with other fall favorites.
  • Mums

    Season opener

    A fall garden favorite, bright and versatile mums flourish in cool temperatures and make great container plants. Hundreds of varieties mean gardeners can choose bloom time, flower shape and color. Mix and match chrysanthemums with other fall accents to create harvest displays or set out mums by themselves to make them the focal point.

  • Container garden with mums

    Long-lasting blooms

    Mums bloom for weeks, which makes them the perfect choice to transition the garden from late summer to the end of the growing season.

  • Color combos

    The most common colors of mums are red, orange, yellow, purple, pink and white. To create classic combinations, think about coordinating colors. Reds, oranges, yellows and creamy whites work well together, as do purples, pinks and pure whites. Try mixing contrasting colors–orange and purple, or pink and yellow.  

  • Mum accents

    Mums don’t feel quite as common when grouped with other containers. Here, a tub of ‘Spicy Cheryl Orange’ mums gets a lift from the airy plumes of maiden grass and dried pampas grass in an adjacent container and a smaller bucket of cabbage adorned with pieces of bittersweet in front.

  • Skirt the subject

    Skirting the subject

    Give a plain potted chrysanthemum a style boost by surrounding it with small pumpkins and gourds. The "skirt" also hides the mum's stems. 

  • Plant pairings

    Chrysanthemums pair well with many fall stars but look especially nice with grasses, flowering kale and ornamental cabbage.

    In these containers, cool-tone plants add up to a striking formula: Chrysanthemum 'Beth Violet', kales (Brassica oleracea 'Chidori White' and 'Toscano'), Aster 'Viking' and festival grass (Cordyline 'Jurred').

  • Rich contrast

    The dark tones of tall purple millet (Pennisetum ‘Jester’) create a dramatic contrast with the brightly colored mum (Chrysanthemum ‘Golden Andrea’); leatherleaf sedge (Carex buchananii) contributes graceful curves.

  • Coordinated trio

    In this trio of containers, no two have the same plants, but they work well together because each pot picks up colors and textures from the others. Tiny pumpkins and gourds pile on fall accents.

  • Vertical drama

    Give your fall container height and texture by adding dried pampas grass and iris pods. Peacock kale and mums mound together at the base.


  • Overflowing wheelbarrow

    A mound of bold purple mums becomes the focal point among foliage in a wheelbarrow. In front of the mums, purple flowering kale blends with trailing bacopa. Spurge brings a hint of red to the far right and left corners. The purple-tinted leaves of bugleweed separate two clumps of spiky santolina. Fox-red curly sedge adds an airy note in back.

  • Fall backyard with mums in containers

    Autumn's art

    For a harmonious look, coordinate mums with the colors of your yard. If you have trees that will turn bright colors in the fall, choose mums in shades of red, orange, yellow or white. If your yard has lots of evergreens, try pink, lavender or pure white mums. 

  • Harvest special

    Chrysanthemums are relatively inexpensive, which is why they are commonly seen in large container groupings. Here, mums line the low wall behind the porch swing for both color and privacy.

  • Modern spin

    Fall decor doesn't have to be red, orange or yellow. Plum-and-white mums tie in well with lime green containers and creamy-white gourds. 

  • Rustic charm

    Display your mums in galvanized tubs with an old garden rake for a rustic rendition. Here, two shades of pink mums with a bright orange mum make a playful set.

  • Best location for mums

    Sunny site

    Most mum varieties grow best in full to partial sun. Show off your mums in a sunny spot along your front walkway, near your garage, or on a deck or patio. (Mums placed in shady areas tend to grow taller, have weaker stems and produce fewer flowers.)

  • Low maintenance mums

    Low maintenance

    Mounded in form, most mums are easy plants for containers and will grow 12 to 36 inches tall and wide. If purchased in the fall, mums have already been trained for best bloom and need little to no maintenance beyond watering. Keep soil moderately moist.

  • Growing mums as a perennial

    Perennial performer

    Mums can be grown as a perennial in most Midwest areas; check with a local garden center to see which varieties are best for your region. Mums are more likely to survive the winter if planted in spring rather than fall.

    Tip: The secret to a stunning fall display is early summer pruning. Pinch flowerheads every 2–3 weeks until around July 4. Once the flowers bloom in fall, they will be larger, fuller and last longer.

    More information on planting mums:
    University of Minnesota Extension Service
    Missouri Botanical Garden

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