When night temps drop (mid-September), buy plants as they start to break bud. You’ll maximize bloom time. To find the color and type of flower you’re after, check plant tags and cross-reference with already opened blooms. Garden centers usually group like selections together.
For impact, sport no more colors than are on your team’s jersey. You will stretch your dollars by choosing darker shades such as bronze and burgundy. They look better longer; spent flowers are less noticeable. The same is true for mums with double, as opposed to single, daisy-like blooms.
What you see is what you get: Buy the bigger plant. Once buds start to open, you’re pretty much guaranteed flowers ― no matter where you display them. They’ll be happiest in sun, but if you’re planning to compost them once the show is over, it’s fine to bend this rule.
Keep flowers coming by watering and pinching. Soil should be moist, but never wet. Check daily while weather is warm, every other day when it’s cooler. Fertilizing is not necessary. Remove faded blooms to encourage even more buds to open and you’ll have color through October.
If plants dry out, submerge in a bucket of water, or jab a sharp pencil into the soil several times and then water.