Chrysanthemums or “mums” are associated with autumn, appearing in jewel colors in garden centers in September and October. However, if you are growing mums, they are hardy perennial plants best planted in the early spring. Discover how to plant, grow, and care for these colorful members of the daisy family!
What is a Mum?
The Chrysanthemum is a member of the Asteraceae (Compositae) family, related to dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, and cosmos. Each bloom is made of hundreds of tiny flowers called florets. The plant ranges in size from a common small cushion mum to the giant spider mums, and they bloom in almost every color of the rainbow: yellow, lavender, pink, purple, red, bronze, orange, and white. They leaves are a lovely blue/green.
A Brief Mum History
The chrysanthemum was first cultivated in China as a flowering herb back in 15th century B.C. Based on early illustrations, it appeared as more of a daisy-like flower. Since then, the mum has been bred in so many shapes, sizes, showy styles and a multitude of colors that don’t always resemble its humble beginnings.
According to the National Chrysanthemum Society, “the genus Chrysanthemum once included more species, but was split several decades ago into several genera, putting the economically important florist chrysanthemum in the genus Dendranthema. The placement of the florist chrysanthemum in this genus was very contentious. A ruling of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature in 1999 changed the defining species of the genus Chrysanthemum to C. indicum, giving the florist mum back its prized generic name.” The National Chrysanthemum Society divides bloom forms into 13 classes.
Mums that are sold in garden centers in the autumn should be treated as annuals. They are decorative gift plants which are not bred to be hardy; it’s their color, size and form that are prized. If these plants are put in the ground in late summer, many won’t make it through the winter in cold regions.