From pumpkins to mums – how to pick fall favorites and help them last  

Chronicle Media

Fall mums, cabbages or kales, and pumpkins make an attractive seasonal combination for porch displays and planters. When purchasing and displaying, U of I Extension offers some simple tips to help the arrangement last well into autumn. Visit (Photo courtesy of U of I Extension

As trees begin to change their colors, many homeowners swap out their porch plants and decorations to reflect the season. The right choices now can mean lasting autumn color that could be on display well through Thanksgiving. 

“Making smart selections when purchasing your fall mums, ornamental plants and gourds is critical to their appearance and longevity,” said University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Richard Hentschel. “In addition, simple, consistent care helps keep the color coming for weeks.” 

When purchasing and caring for mums, Hentschel offers the following tips: 

  •          Pick a mum that is only about 50 percent in flower, or one just beginning to bloom.
  •          Never let the mum dry down and wilt.
  •          Display it out of full sun, if possible, to conserve moisture and prevent faded flowers.
  •          If you plan to plant them as permanent additions the landscape, look for mums noted as “hardy” on the tag, and plant immediately when you get home.

“Mums blend very well with gourds, pumpkins, and ornamental kale and cabbage for colorful, seasonal outdoor displays,” added Hentschel. “Go ahead and purchase fully developed kale and cabbage plants. As cool season crops, they can last deep into the fall.” 

If adding pumpkins and gourds to the mix, Hentschel advises to keep an eye out for these things: 

  •          Look for stems, and on pumpkins, stems at least two inches long. Those without do not last.
  •          Look for obvious dark marks, soft spots, cuts and bruises. The skin should be intact and firm.
  •          Think about placement. If it will sit on the porch, look for symmetry and a flat bottom. If combining in a potted arrangement, keep size, color and height in mind.
  •          At home, wash each one gently with warm water and dry thoroughly. Keep or display them in a shady, cool place, as sun and heat will cause them to soften and deteriorate.

“If you decide not to carve your pumpkins, with proper care they may last through Thanksgiving like mums, kales and cabbages can,” said Hentschel. “If you are not planting the mums permanently, when they are done, add them to the compost pile along with the cabbages and kale. They all can be recycled into organic matter for use in other beds in the future.”  

For permanently planted mums, as soon as they fade, cut the blooms off and trim back a portion of foliage. Just like with other perennials, be sure to tease out the roots to promote new root growth for a better chance of surviving the winter, said Hentschel. 

“With these simple tips, you can make the most of your time and dollars to create a lasting autumn display this year.” 

For more information on University of Illinois Extension programs and services in DuPage, Kane or Kendall County, visit 



— From pumpkins to mums – how to pick fall favorites and help them last    —