Chrysanthemums, also referred to as ‘’mums’’ or chrysanths, are usually the reason why most gardens and fields are filled with the jewel, warm-colored flowers that have different shapes and sizes for a couple of weeks each year during fall.
These hardy perennial plants are great for beginning gardeners as they are relatively easy to plant and maintain.
Continue reading and discover everything you need to know about growing chrysanthemums from how to plant and care for them, to the available different varieties.
Basic Facts about Chrysanthemums
- Most people are unaware that chrysanthemums belong to the Asteraceae, or Compositae, family of plants. As a result, they are relatives of sunflowers, cosmos, dahlias, and marigolds, to name a few.
- Mums are considered tropical flowers. They are native to Eurasian countries, although nowadays, they are grown all over the world.
- This flower is unique-looking because it has hundreds of tiny flowers, called florets, that make up the bigger flower.
- In turn, these florets are made of two different types: disc and ray florets. The disc florets have center buttons, whereas, the ray florets have what people usually call the petals of the plant.
- The plant can be small, big, or giant, and they come in a wide range of colors, such as pink, purple, yellow, lavender, and orange.
- Most of the mums varieties are hardy, thus, they will thrive in zones 3 to 9, according to the USDA.
History of Mums
Mums were first cultivated in China, approximately 6 centuries ago. They were later introduced to other countries nearby, such as Japan, by Buddhist monks who were traveling throughout Asia.
This flower became so popular—as it has been associated with the beginning of life since its early cultivation period—that even Japanese Emperors would decorate their thrones with chrysanthemums.
Nowadays, it is normal to see mums in different temples across the world, and even Japanese cities still pay their respect and show their love for this plant during their annual chrysanthemum exhibitions and celebrations.
However, the word chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek words “Chrys” meaning “golden,” and “anthemion” which means “flower.” Ancient Greeks thought this flower would only come in golden tones, hence why they decided to name it as such.
How To Grow Chrysanthemums
Here’s our flower guide about everything you need to know about growing chrysanthemums successfully:
Depending on the area you live in, you can sow mums directly into the soil, or you could prepare some trays and grow them indoors until the weather warms up.
If you do the latter, make sure you start the trays 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date. This will give you plenty of time to support your seedlings.
Mums prefer well-drained soil, and they require moist soil at all times. Otherwise, their petals will be the first ones to suffer!
Some gardeners like to add compost or aged manure to the soil if planting outdoors. If you are planting indoors, you can still do a mixture of planting soil and compost, so your flowers can benefit from it.
Always mulch around the plants, not on top of the plant. This will stop weeds from appearing, and it will also keep the soil moist.
Mums love the sun! In fact, they prefer to be fully exposed to sunlight, if possible. When planting, make sure no trees or big shrubs are in the way of your chrysanthemums.
If the weather belongs to a warmer gardening area, then it is recommended to place them under a shade during dry and hot summer afternoons.
When watering mums, you need to make sure that all of the water is going directly to the soil and not to the leaves. If this happens, then the plant’s leaves could get different types of diseases related to fungi.
Chrysanthemums are known for being heavy feeders. This means that they like to be fed with fertilizer as often as possible. This could be monthly or bimonthly. It will depend on your soil’s needs. Make sure you do the fertilizer or purchase an organic one.
Besides, when the first couple of petals start to appear, you will need to stop adding fertilizer to the plant.
If you are growing mums, then you will be pinching a lot! When you pinch, you are also yielding more bushy plants that will, in turn, bloom more.
Don’t worry, they are not getting hurt by this! It’s called pinching because you get to remove the tips that go upwards and that have shown new growth.
Instead, the plant will naturally start growing side-shoots. It’s called pinching when referring to non-woody plants, such as mums.
If the plant has new shoots, and they are at least 5 inches tall, you need to pinch the ones at the top. Do remember to leave at least 2 or 3 leaves attached to the shoot.
If you do this, you will be helping your plant not only to become healthier but also to produce more blooms. Ideally, you would do this once a month, not more.
As soon as the flower starts to bloom, you need to stop pinching the mums.
Weeds and the Flowers
Chrysanthemums hate weeds. Make sure you remove as many weeds as possible, especially when mums are still growing. Otherwise, those weeds could be competing against your flowers for nutrients that are found in the soil.
Mums should be pruned, especially when blooms start to fade away. This will help the plant to bloom for longer periods.
However, mums should not be pruned during fall, as the existing branches will help the plant to survive winter.
Pests and Diseases
Aphids love mums! They are the plague most gardeners dread, so if you see them, you will need to add a layer of protection to your plants by either adding fertilizer or special nets so the pests don’t reach them.
Ornamental mums are usually sold in garden centers. They serve as a decorative plant, therefore, they won’t last for long periods.
On the contrary, they are sold with this characteristic in mind, thus, you won’t be able to plant this mum in your garden. And even if you do, the flower has lower survival chances.
Does spacing matter when planting mums?
Yes, it does! If sown in springtime, chrysanthemums could be reaching 2 feet in height and weight by fall. If these flowers are planted too close together, they are likely to develop serious issues in their roots’ systems, as they will always fight for nutrients.
Common Types of Mums You Can Grow
According to the United States National Chrysanthemum Society, there is a classification system based on the shape of the flower and there are 13 different types of mums. These are the most common types:
Irregular and Incurve Blooms
These flowers’ inner florets are incurved to their inwards, hence its name. An example of this class would be a ‘’King’s pleasure’’ mum.
Any plant under this classification will grow up to 6 inches in height. However, no two flowers are alike, so all of this category has an irregular appearance.
This flower can have white, pink, yellow, or orange petals.
When this plant blooms, you will see a slightly flat center that has small florets curved downward. Its petals resemble feathers, and they can be white, pink cream, or yellow.
A good example of this type of plant is the ‘’King George’’ flower, as shown in the image above. They are quite small though, as they will only grow up to 6 inches in height.
Although the stem of this plant is short, its blooms can reach up to 8 inches in height. Unlike the irregular incurve variety, this type of plant has a completely perfect round shape.
Its petals hold themselves tight, and its florets seem to be going inwards. The ‘’Heather James’’ is a perfect example of this classification.
The center bloom of this plant is completely flat and the florets do not touch it, although they do cover it as they go inwards. A variety of this plant can be the ‘’St. Tropez’’ flower.
Single and Semi-double Blooms
Although they resemble daisies, this chrysanthemum has two ray florets that can either be white, purple, pink, yellow, cream, or orange. They have a compact center where all the florets touch and they can grow up to 3 feet in height.
This extravagant mum is very unique, as it has thin florets that are separated from one another. They can have multi-colored blooms, although the most common types are the white, pink, or purple varieties.
This chrysanthemum has long florets that have a tubular shape. They often curve themselves downwards, as if they are trying to hold the center of the flower.
This mum has spiky florets that resemble a spider’s legs. They can have multiple colors and are very exotic! They will grow up to 6 inches in height.
As you can see from the image above, this type of flower has a huge round center and smaller daisy-like petals that go outwards. Its petals can be red, orange, white, yellow, pink, or can also have multiple colors. This particular variety is called “Powder puff.”
This variety is one of the smallest ones, as they only grow up to 4 inches in height. They are beautiful ornamental plants and are often used in floral arrangements.
As its name suggests, this type of flower is the most-used in floral arrangements, as they make an exquisite ornamental plant. Its blooms can grow up to 5 inches in width and height, and they have a flat center where all of the florets expand themselves from the center out.
One of the most famous varieties of this classification is the ‘’Honeyglow’’ type of mum.
Unclassified or Extravagant
There are hundreds of unclassified chrysanthemums, and they all have very different characteristics that make them unique.
Spoon mums have a lovely spoon-shaped petal that tends to go downwards. They are very similar to chrysanthemums and are often placed on that classification. However, spoon mums have a slight curve on the tip of their petals that makes them different.
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding this flower:
Can you grow mums in pots?
Yes, definitely. It is advisable to do so, especially if you would like to bring nature into a small area. Chrysanthemums will grow up to 3 feet in height, so, make sure you place them in a proper container.
How do you take care of mums during the winter?
In areas where winters are hard, gardeners are still able to overwinter their mums by placing them in containers indoors.
For this purpose, you will need a really cold area such as a basement or a closet. Place the plants inside the chosen area in pots, but leave them as they are.
If the plants have leaves, then leave them until you take them out the following spring. Water constantly and thoroughly, and you will make your plants hibernate throughout the hard winter months.
Check them out regularly, and make sure they are still alive. Slowly, start reintroducing external cues, such as lights or heat. Once springtime comes, you can take your plants outdoors again.
How should chrysanthemums be divided?
If mums are 2 years or older, they are likely showing aging signs. They could be looking extremely thin right in the center of the stem, or they could start turning into different, odd shapes.
This will give you a signal regarding the health of your plants: they need to be divided. During spring, pick the woody and older center and discard. You need to replant the outer sections as they have stronger chances of survival.
Add some organic matter to make sure the soil is rich in nutrients.
Can you grow chrysanthemums from seeds?
It will be more difficult to grow them, but it’s not an impossible task. The major challenge you will face is that the plants you will grow will not be true to the mother plant, as mums are known for being hybrids, so its seeds are not always trustworthy.
It would be best, however, to grow them by propagating them from cuttings, sometimes referred to as ‘’division’’.
This way you will make sure your plants will healthily grow.
Do chrysanthemums take a long time to grow?
As a general rule, yes, chrysanthemums like to take their time to grow, and we could think that they take “too long.” The reason behind this is that they tend to have an intricate system of florets, so, what nature must-do for these varieties of flowers to grow.
It will also depend on the type of propagation you did, as it will take longer to grow if you sowed seeds.
How long do mums last once they start blooming?
Did you know there are three different types of chrysanthemums in terms of blossom? They could be early bloomers, which are usually around springtime. Then there are the early fall bloomers and followed by the late fall bloomers.
Technically, these types of mums can bloom for 8 weeks, if the right growing conditions have been met. If not, it is expected for them to die within the first 2 to 3 weeks after they bloom.
What does the chrysanthemum flower symbolize?
In general terms, this flower symbolizes unity, fidelity, joy, love, and long life. In addition, a red mum symbolizes love, and a yellow variety can symbolize friendship.
Mums represent abundance, diligence, and health. Having a lush and incredible garden filled with chrysanthemums is now possible if you follow these steps. This hardy perennial plant is known for being a classic addition to any garden, especially when winter is nearby!
However, if you plant diligently and if the weather allows it, you can enjoy mums throughout the year as they are easily adaptable to new living conditions.
Have fun growing your chrysanthemums!
*image by scrisman/depositphotos