Chrysanthemums, the quintessential autumn flower, are a very large
diverse group with various species tracing back to areas of China,
Japan, northern Africa, and southern Europe. Early chrysanthemums
were probably small yellow daisy-like flowers. They are members
of Asteraceae or aster family (formerly Composite family).
Like all members of the aster family, a flower is actually composed
of numerous tiny individual flowers clustered together into a “head.”
The individual flowers are either ray type with a petal or disc
type without a petal. By thinking of a daisy (or sunflower), which
is made up of ray flowers on the edge and disc flowers in the center,
it is easy to understand this concept.
Chrysanthemums have been cultivated for thousands of years. Chinese
writings from the 15th Century describe chrysanthemum cultivation.
Pottery from that era depicts the flowers. The Chinese believed
the plant had the power of life.
The plant has been grown in Japan since the 8th Century. The chrysanthemum
is so highly revered in Japan that a single flowered chrysanthemum
is the Emperor’s symbol. The flower is often incorporated
into the crests of noble families. National Chrysanthemum Day, also
called Festival of Happiness, celebrates the plant’s significance
Linneaus (botanist who invented the plant classification system)
gave the plant its western name, chrysanthemum, from the Greek chrysos
meaning gold and anthemon meaning flower.
Mums were introduced into the United States in the colonial era.
Although widely used in modern America, the chrysanthemum is considered
the death flower in Europe because of its extensive use on graves.
Chrysanthemum is one of our most commonly cultivated flowers. There
are thousands of varieties specially developed for use as cut flowers,
hardy landscape plants, and houseplants. Colors range though most
shades of yellow, orange, pink, purple, red, and white. A few are
The National Chrysanthemum Society (from which I got much of this
information at www.mums.org) recognizes
thirteen bloom classes of chrysanthemum. The classes are based on
flower form and petal shape. Pompon, single, spider, quill, reflex,
and anemone are examples of some of the classes. Cushion mums are
not a bloom class but a term for low growing, mounded, early blooming
plants. Garden mum is often used to distinguish between hardier
mums for outdoor plantings versus greenhouse mums.
In our northern Illinois gardens it is essential to plant garden
or hardy mums. Proper siting is extremely important. Garden mums
need rich, well-drained soil and full sun.
Chrysanthemums should be planted 18 to 36 inches apart depending
on the mature size of the plant. Mums are heavy feeders and should
be fertilized monthly with 5-10-5, 5-10-10, or 5-20-20. After flower
buds develop, fertilization should be stopped.
Mums have a tendency to get tall and leggy if they are not pinched.
Beginning in May whenever a new shoot reaches 3 to 4 inches tall,
it should be pinched off using the thumb and index finger, leaving
2 to 3 leaves on the shoot. It’s a good idea to fertilize
and pinch about once a month. Stop pinching the middle of July so
flower buds will develop.
Chrysanthemums are short day plants, which means they need lengthening
nights to trigger bloom. In the home garden mother nature does that
for us. In the cut flower and greenhouse industry growers shade
the plants with a dense black cloth to fool them into blooming out
Chrysanthemums are susceptible to aphids, mites, and powdery mildew.
Outdoors beneficial insects usually take care of aphids and mites.
Powdery mildew may be reduced by maintaining good air circulation
Frost heaving in poorly drained soil is the primary cause of winter
death. When the tops die in late fall cut off the dead stems at
the ground line and remove them from the garden. After the ground
freezes apply three to four inches of mulch (straw, fluffy leaves,
evergreen boughs) to help keep the soil frozen.
Whether you grow them in your yard, purchase them for a sick friend,
or enjoy them in a Thanksgiving bouquet the chrysanthemum will brighten
October - November 2003:
| Does Your Ash Tree Have the Emerald Ash Borer?
| Chrysanthemums | Protect Home From Crickets �