Chrysanthemum, Mum

The chrysanthemum blooms in late summer and can grow up to three feet tall.

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Plant type: Herbaceous annual or perennial, depending on climate
Botanical name: Chrysanthemum
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9

This plant comes into its prime when other summer annuals and perennials are fading in late summer into fall. Mums are photoperiodic, meaning they bloom in response to shorter days and longer nights. Bloom color varies from yellow, white, pink, red and orange. Blooms from late summer to fall, depending on species. Chrysanthemum cultivars come in a variety of flower types, including anemone, pompon, decorative, spider, spoon, quill, single and standard. Garden mums are perennial with spreading underground runners (stolons), while florist mums (typically found at the grocery store in the fall) are annual, unable to develop enough runners to overwinter. Plant size ranges from 18 to 36 inches tall and as wide.

How to use it: In masses, edging, as a specimen plant and in containers. Use in a mixed perennial border. Cutflower.

Culture: Prefers a rich, moist, well-drained site. Provide mums with plenty of water throughout the summer; flowering is affected by lack of water. Does not tolerate wet soils, especially in winter. Plant in full sun. Benefits by regular fertilization. Cut or pinch back to promote branching, up to the beginning of July. Propagated through cuttings, seed or division. Plant in spring or fall; spring is best to establish perennial mums for overwintering. Divide every two to three years; discard old part of the plant and replant the younger clump. No serious pest or disease problems, but may have problems with aphids, mites, powdery mildew or verticillium wilt.

Special notes: Named by Swedish botanist Linnaeus. The term chrysanthemum comes from the Greek terms chrysos, meaning gold, and anthos, meaning flower. This genus has had a sort of recent identity crisis. Botanists renamed this genus to Dendranthema before it was changed back to its current name. Some selections attract wildlife, including butterflies and bees.

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