Learn about one of autumn’s most gorgeous bloomers, the chrysanthemum.
Add chrysanthemums to your yard to ignite some floral fireworks each fall. Garden mums, a type of chrysanthemum, are a hardy perennial that flourishes with minimal care. Hundreds of cultivars expand the color range to include something to please every palette, and flower forms also provide a wide variety of options.
In addition to garden mums, chrysanthemums also include what are known as florist mums. These are the cutting types that produce large flower heads ideal for picking and plunking into vases—or preparing for autumn football corsages. Both garden mums and many of the cutting mum plants fall into the botanical name Chrysanthemum x morifolium.
The chrysanthemum family also includes a traditional roadside favorite, the ox-eye daisy, known botanically as Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. Garland chrysanthemum falls into the genus, too, under the moniker Chrysanthemum coronarium. This edible favorite stars in Asian cooking, with leaves, flower petals and flower buds harvested for flavoring teas, salads and hot dishes. It is also known as chop suey greens, because its leaves frequently appear in that recipe.
In the garden, chrysanthemum is an easy-growing plant that blends well with other perennials during summer, with its quiet green appearance. As fall arrives and flower buds start to pop, chrysanthemums steal the spotlight.
Garden mums in particular lend themselves to mass plantings in the landscape, thanks to their tightly rounded shape and intense flower coverage.
Garden mums provide what’s known in the floral industry as "65 mph color"—plant color that’s easily spotted at highway speeds. Achieve that kind of head-turning impact by planting chrysanthemums in blocks of single colors. Use a total of two, or at most three, different shades, but arrange them in blocks. The result will be a stunning blast of floral color.
The secret to growing great chrysanthemums is twofold. First, provide excellent drainage. Soil that drains poorly will kill a chrysanthemum quicker than anything. Be sure to amend soil by adding organic matter to improve drainage. Second, purchase mum plants in spring—not fall. Spring-planted chrysanthemums have time to develop a healthy, extensive root system that can fuel a strong fall flower show that first year. A strong root system also helps chrysanthemums survive winter.
Cutting chrysanthemums are making a comeback in gardening circles. You can find suppliers online who specialize in old-fashioned cutting mums. When growing these chrysanthemums, skip the summer pinching process that creates the tightly rounded, flower-covered plant typical of fall garden mums. By letting chrysanthemums stems grow long, you can harvest long-stemmed blooms that—like all mum flowers—last a long time in the vase.
One fact you may not know about chrysanthemums is that the flowers of pyrethrum daisy, Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium, are used to create an organic insecticide: pyrethrum. This widely available organic pest control helps battle all kinds of tough pests in the garden, like aphids, leafhoppers, beetles and some caterpillars.