Every fall I buy beautiful hardy mums, but they don’t seem to survive the winter in my landscape. What am I doing wrong? — D.B., Cambridge, MA
The chrysanthemums we see everywhere commonly called “hardy mums” are really not designed to survive our challenging New England winter climate — these are seasonal beauties bred to be enjoyed for the weeks they are in flower but then discarded. Because they are grown in such abundance every year, these chrysanthemums are always inexpensive and a fine decorating bargain.
If you want fall-color plants that thrive in your garden year after year, try planting climate-tolerant cultivars like September-flowering ‘Clara Curtis’ and ‘Mary Stoker’. The “Korean mums” like ‘Sheffield’, ‘Venus’, and ‘Mei-kyo’ produce their flowers even later, often well into October. These winter-hardy types are available at many local garden centers that understand the results customers want, but they are usually not at the “box stores.” When you include them in your garden, you’ll be rewarded with reliable late-season blooms that look spectacular for weeks in your landscape and are also fine as a cut flower for indoor arrangements.