10 Things You Need to Know About Chrysanthemums
Learn more about the chrysanthemum, a popular autumn plant. This guide explains everything you need to know about chrysanthemums.
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The star of every autumn display has got to be those lush, gorgeous mums in harvest shades of yellow, burgundy and orange, or pretty pinks, purples and whites. Here’s how to care for chrysanthemums, plus how to choose the best mums to add color to your fall garden.
Are Chrysanthemums Annuals or Perennials?
You’ll find two basic groups of mums for sale at the garden center. Florist mums are usually grown and sold as an annual or holiday plant. Hardier garden mums are used as perennials and can be planted directly into the soil. Learn the difference between annuals and perennials.
If you picked up your mums from the fall display at the corner store or supermarket, it’s probably a florist mum. They’re bred to be beautiful but won’t survive the winter.
Want hardy garden mums for your perennial garden? Your best bet is to ask for them at a garden center or nursery.
Choose From Many Varieties
Hundreds of chrysanthemum varieties are found across the globe. The National Chrysanthemum Society divides them into 13 classes based on bloom form. Plant breeder Syngenta recently launched four new varieties of pot mums: Flagstaff Topaz, Houston Yellow, Paisley Park Purple Bicolor and Roseville Pink.
Plant Mums in the Best Location
In zones 5-9, plant perennial garden mums in a full-sun spot. Mums require at least five hours of sunlight per day. Well-draining soil is crucial to keep the plants healthy and ensure they’ll return next year. Work organic matter into poor or compacted soils before planting your mums.
Florist mums are perfect choices for containers, to make stunning fall displays near entryways and in window boxes. You can also plant these annual mums in your garden to bring end-of-season color after summer annuals are spent.
Psst—these are the best fall flowers that aren’t mums.
Give Chrysanthemums Some Space
Give mums some space so they won’t be crowded! If growing them in the garden, put plants in the ground 18 to 30 inches apart for best results. Chrysanthemums grow up to three feet tall and up to two feet wide. Their shallow roots cannot compete with other plants for moisture.
Plant Chrysanthemums Early in the Year
Courtesy Cynthia Nelson
Plant perennial mums in spring. This gives the plants the most time to establish root systems and gain strength before the first frost. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball, adding rich soil to the hole as you plant your mum. Add a layer of mulch at the base of the plant to help keep the soil moist.
Water Perennial Mums Often
Keep your perennial mums well-watered; they need a lot of H2O and are susceptible to drying out. Psst—this is the best time of day to water plants.
How to Prune Chrysanthemums
To keep your mum plant short and full, pinch or prune to about 6 inches tall throughout early summer.Pruning the tips of branches will encourage growth; two or three times is usually enough, stopping by mid-summer so the plants will bloom in the fall.
Choose the Right Potted Annual Mums
Buy potted, annual mums that have lots of closed buds—these will bloom the longest for you (think: if they’re all blooming now—there won’t be much to look at later). Since they’re usually root-bound, transplant them to larger containers if possible. If you can’t re-pot them, set the pots on water-collecting saucers, so they stay hydrated longer after watering. And water often!
Check out the best fall shrubs for your garden.
Use Cut Chrysanthemums in Arrangements
Courtesy Hope Grasser
In the morning when plants are hydrated, cut the stems at an angle. Remove leaves that will be underwater and immediately place stems in tepid water. Bring the stems in water (with plant food added if you’d like) to a cool, dark place to rest overnight; this conditioning will extend the life of the cut flowers. Then, arrange your mums in a decorative vase. Learn how to create a pumpkin bouquet.
Visit the Chrysanthemum Festival
This year’s Chrysanthemum Festival at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, will feature the unveiling of the Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum. With more than 1,000 blooms on a single stem, it will be a spectacular sight to see. The festival runs Oct. 16 through Nov. 14, 2021. Fun fact: It takes almost two years and about 2,000 staff hours to nurture a single cutting into this blooming dome at Longwood Gardens.