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When to Cut Back Mums After Blooming [And How to Do That]

Mums bring a beautiful burst of fall color to your yard when little else is blooming. But they can't bloom forever. So when should you cut your mums back after they stop blooming? And how exactly should you do that? We've done the research and have all the answers you need. 

After your mums stop blooming in late fall, don't cut them back right away. Leaving the stems through the winter will help insulate their roots. Cut back your mums' dead stems and leaves in early spring when new green growth emerges.

Keep reading for more information on pruning and caring for your mums after they stop blooming. We'll also tell you how to trim your mums in the spring and summer to achieve the bushiest blossoms in the fall.

A beautiful flowers of chrysanthemums, When to Cut Back Mums After Blooming [And How to Do That]

When To Cut Back Mums After They Stop Blooming?

Chrysanthemums, or mums, which is their common name, come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors. From white to yellow to purple to red, and several shades in between, you can find several varieties of mums.

Florists use different interesting types of mums year-round in displays and arrangements. But the garden mums most often used in landscaping or patio containers put on their best show in the autumn months.

Chrysanthemums in Autumn

With the right care and conditions, garden mums can bloom for up to 4 to 8 weeks during the fall. As the season progresses, you can maintain and prolong the beauty of your mums by pinching them back, or deadheading them.

To maintain the appearance of your mums, pinch off individual blossoms when they expire. As each blossom dries up or turns brown, simply pinch it off with your fingers or trim it off with scissors or pruning shears.

By clearing out the old blossoms, the flowers that are still in bloom will stand out and help your plants look their best all season long.

Click here to check out these yellow chrysanthemums on Amazon.

Once your mums have stopped blooming and there are no more blossoms, you might feel the temptation to either rip them out or cut them all the way back. But resist the urge to do either.

While many people treat mums as annuals and toss them in the compost heap at the end of the season, many varieties can grow as perennials in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.

In colder climates, you can keep your mums alive through the winter by growing them in containers.

Click here to check out this 10-pack of 2-gallon nursery pots on Amazon.

How To Overwinter Your Mums?

Flower chrysanthemum flowerbed

Whether planted in containers or in the ground, don't cut your mums back right away after they stop blooming. As long as the leaves and stems are green, they will continue to deliver energy to the plant to form roots, helping to produce a stronger plant.

Once the stems have all dried up or get nipped by frozen temperatures, you should still wait to cut your mums back. Leaving the stems in place will help insulate the roots and give them a better chance of surviving the cold winter months.

The dried stems can also provide interest in your garden during the barren winter and might be useful to wildlife. Applying a few inches of mulch around your mums will further insulate them from the cold temperatures.

If your climate zone is too cold for your mums to survive outside all winter, you can pot them after the first frost and store them in a cold closet or basement. Keep the pots watered, and gradually reintroduce them to light in the spring. Return your mums back outside after the last killing frost.

Click here to check out this red mum in a whiskey barrel planter on Amazon.

How To Cut Back Your Mums?

Once new green shoots appear in the early spring, it's finally time to cut back your mums. Using pruning shears, simply cut off all the dead stems and leaves above where the new growth has emerged.

Don't try to cut the old stems all the way down to the ground. It's okay to leave a few inches since the new growth will soon fill in to cover the old stems.

You simply want to tidy the plants up and give the new growth space to emerge. If you remove too much, you may end up with a less full plant.

Can I Cut Back My Mums Earlier?

If you live in a climate with very mild winters, and you don't like the look of the dried stems in your garden, you can choose to cut back your mums earlier.

You should still wait until late fall or winter, when all the leaves and stems have dried up and are no longer green. Then, using your pruning shears, cut your mums back 6 to 8 inches above the ground.

What's more, if your mums were bothered by any pests or diseases earlier in the season, you shouldn't wait to cut them back. As soon as they finish blooming, cut them back to a few inches above the ground and carefully dispose of the contaminated material.

You should also remove and replace any surrounding mulch to avoid spreading any pathogens. 

How Do You Make Chrysanthemums Bushy?

Mums grow best in full sun, and the more light they receive, the better they will bloom. If planted in too much shade, they are more likely to become leggy and might not bloom very much, if at all.

You will also achieve the healthiest plants by growing them in well-draining soil with consistent watering. Like many plants, they will not thrive in either hard and dry or wet and boggy soils.

Purple chrysanthemum flowers

But to achieve the fullest, bushiest plants with the most blossoms in the fall, you also need to pinch them back earlier in the year as they grow. If left on their own, the stems will grow long and tall and might become floppy.

If left unpruned, mums are also likely to develop their buds earlier and start blooming in the summer rather than in the fall. The blooms will fade quickly in the heat of the summer.

So, if you want to enjoy your mums for as long as possible, it's best to encourage them to wait until the cooler temperatures of fall to bloom.

How To Pinch Back Mums?

The first round of pinching should take place in spring when the mums have grown about 6 inches tall. Grab each stem about 3 inches above the base of the plant, just above a leaf, and use your fingers to pinch it off.

You can also use pruning shears or scissors if you prefer. New stems will grow from below where you pinched back the plants.

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The second round of pinching should occur once the new stems have grown about 6 inches long. Pinch each one back about 2 to 3 inches, just above a leaf.

As your mums grow through the spring and early summer, complete this pinching process each time the new stems grow another 6 inches or so. Take off about 2 to 3 inches each time.

Around July 4th, you can stop the pinching process. At this point, you want to just let the mums grow to produce as many buds as possible.

Since new branches will have sprouted everywhere you pinched back the mums, you should earn the reward of full, bushy mums with lots of branches covered in blossoms in the fall.

If you have a lot of mums in your yard and pinching or snipping each stem individually seems like too much work, you can also use your larger garden shears to prune them all at once.

The basic concept and timing are the same, and you'll still want to only take about 3 inches off each time they grow another 6 inches.

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Check out this video for an example of both pruning methods:

What To Do with Potted Chrysanthemums After Flowering?

If you purchased a pot of mums for your front porch to enjoy during the fall, you don't need to toss them out when the season is over. Depending on your climate, you can transplant them to your garden right away or keep them in containers through the winter.

The same pruning and pinching instructions described above apply whether you transplant your mums into the ground, or not.

Close-up of fall yellow and orange Mums

Once spring returns, you can choose to plant your mums in your yard or keep them as container plants. Either way, your mums will need full sun and consistent watering to grow back and bloom again.

They likely won't thrive if kept indoors or in shade full-time. But with the right care, mums can continue to grow and bloom for many years.

In Closing

A beautiful display of blooming mums will brighten up your front porch or yard during the shortening days of fall. For the best show of autumn colors, give your mums the proper care, including pruning them at the right times of the year.

Wait to cut them back until new growth appears in the spring, and then trim them regularly until early July to help develop bushy plants with lots of blossoms.

For more tips and information on growing flowers, check out these articles:

How Long Do Flowers Typically Take to Grow?

7 Best Perennials to Plant Around Your Mailbox