Spider Mums

Discover the exotic beauty of spider mums—and learn some tips for growing these blooms in your garden.
Longwoods Garden spider mum

Longwoods Garden spider mum

Photo by: Courtesy Longwood Gardens

Courtesy Longwood Gardens

Spider mums take their common name from long, narrow, drooping petals, which look like a spider's legs.

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Accent your garden with the breathtaking beauty of spider mums. These unusual chrysanthemums fall into the hardy mum category, surviving winters to Zone 5. Also known as Fuji mums, spider mums bring a very distinctive flower form to the garden—and vase. Like other garden mums, spider chrysanthemums last 14 to 21 days in bouquets, making them an ideal addition to a cutting garden. 

A traditional chrysanthemum flower features a typical daisy-like shape with petals (known botanically as florets) arranged in concentric circles. In spider mums, the petals or florets are elongated and tubular. Sometimes the petal tubes are hooked or curved at the ends. Because they’re so long, the petals dangle loosely from the flower, resembling spider legs. Some spider mums have petals that are thin and threadlike; on other spider mums, the florets have a thicker size. 

Spider mums are not typically sold at garden centers because they’re later bloomers, flowering in October to November. If you want to savor the beauty of spider mums, you’ll need to grow them yourself. In colder regions (Zone 5), plan to cover plants and protect them from early frosts if you want to enjoy the flowers. 

To grow spider mums, source them from a chrysanthemum specialist grower. Choose varieties based on flowering time and how soon frost hits your neck of the woods. Spider mums come in a host of hues, including gold, orange, pink, white and lavender. Petal form and length differs by variety, from shorter and fatter to long, trailing tubes. 

When ordering spider mums, you’ll receive rooted cuttings for planting. Give spider mums plenty of elbow room—roughly 10 inches on all sides. Stake spider mums as they grow, because the flower buds can create a top-heavy plant. Tie stems to stakes as they grow to avoid having a summer storm topple them. 

With garden mums, you shear the entire plant to produce lots of side branches and multiple flower buds. When growing spider mums, you’ll practice pruning that’s called disbudding—removing flower buds as they form. If you want large blooms (some spider mum flowers can reach 6 inches across), let each plant develop just one flower bud. If you want sprays of smaller blooms, remove only a few flower buds. The company you order your spider mums from should be able to give you advice about disbudding. 

Spider mums are believed to have originated in China. Today, spider mums are a popular choice for wedding bouquets. Brides often select the blossom for its striking appearance, but they also gravitate to the meaning it embodies: liveliness. In the language of flowers, white spider mums convey the idea of purity and truth, which also makes them a choice for fall bridal bouquets. This bridal language doesn’t translate from American to European nations, where spider mums are typically associated with death and graveside remembrance bouquets.

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