How to root and plant mum cuttings

Chrysanthemums, also called garden mums, are a perennial plant that can benefit from pruning starting in early spring. However, don’t toss out what you pinch back or cut off the mum. Plant it! In a mum crazy moment, I grew the row of orange, purple and yellow mums shown above from one plant of each color. Below, I provide three options for rooting mum cuttings.

Collect mum cuttings to root

Sterilize a knife or garden clippers. I keep a small spray bottle of a 50/50 mix of water and bleach to sprits the clippers to kill germs, and then wipe them dry with a paper towel. Sterilizing the knife or clippers reduces the potential of transferring disease to the fresh cuttings. Collect cuttings from the mum plant in the spring (around April) and into early summer. Make a cut about 3 inches long and just above a leaf. Because not all cuttings successfully root, collect at least four cuttings. Note: to ensure plenty of time to root for planting during the current season, collect cuttings before July.

Rooting hormone

Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem. To increase the potential of successful rooting, dip the tip of the cut stem into rooting hormone up to the first node (where a leaf was removed). Here's where the three rooting options come in.

Option 1: Good

Some success in rooting mum clippings is achieved by directly setting the cutting into the ground or a flower pot. Make an opening in the soil with your finger. Drop the rooting hormone tipped cutting into the opening. Water around the cutting to settle the soil. Keep the soil moist. The cutting should root in six to eight weeks. The success rate is decreased if the soil becomes dry.

Option 2: Better

Add potting soil to a small container, like a yogurt cup with a drain hole punched in the bottom. Make an opening in the soil with your finger. Drop the rooting hormone tipped cutting into the opening. Water around the cutting to settle the soil. Cover the container with a plastic bag to hold in moisture. Place the container indoors in indrect light (near a window). The cutting should root in six to eight weeks at which time it can be planted outdoors. See "Planting rooted mum cuttings" below for instructions.
Shown above is my potting table. I punched a hole in the bottom of empty yogurt cups and added new potting soil. I planted the mum cuttings and after watering them, placed the cups on a cake tray. Covered and placed by a shaded window proves to be an optimal growing location. The plastic cake tray and cover are recycled from a store-bought cake.
Option 3: Best

Fill a small waterproof container with perlite or a 50/50 mixture of perlite and sand. Moisten the contents of the container. I use small yogurt containers with no drain holes punched in the bottom since the perlite needs to remain moist. Push the stem into the perlite up to the first leaf on the stem. I placed four cuttings in one small yogurt container.

Place the container in a sunny location and keep the perlite moist. Turn the container daily for more even sunlight distribution. Roots should form in less than four weeks. If any of the cuttings die, gently pull them from the container.

After four weeks in perlite, gently pull the mum clipping from the perlite to examine the roots. Roots that are at least ½ inch long are ready for transplanting to soil, but still in a container for a more-controlled growth. Place one cutting per small yogurt size container. Use sterile (new) potting soil. I use yogurt containers, but this time, punched three small holes in the bottom of the container for drainage. Pinch off new growth on the top of rooted cutting so the plant focuses energy on expanding its root system. Return the container to a sunny location. Water the soil weekly. After four weeks in potting soil (eight weeks total in the rooting process of Option 3), the mum plant is ready for planting in the ground.

Planting rooted mum cuttings
Dig a hole as deep as the container is tall. Dig the hole twice as wide as the container to loosen the soil for easier root penetration. Remove the rooted cutting from the container and place in the hole. Add or remove soil from the bottom of the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Push soil around the root ball. Pour water around the root ball to settle the soil.

Spread 1 to 2 inches of mulch around the plant. Mulch, like wood chips or leaf mold, helps retain moisture and block weed growth. Shown above is the planted cutting with the mother plant in the background. The plant bloomed the same season it was clipped and rooted.
Mums surrounded by Russian sage, pansy, and sweet alyssum