Chrysanthemums have been cultivated by people since as early a 500 BC in China. The genus name in Greek means something like "golden flower" which relates to the early flowering types. Today, of course, there are many, many different forms and colors of mum flowers available for the home landscape.

In general, chrysanthemums fall into two categories in the horticultural world. They are herbaceous perennials that bloom in late summer and into fall. The type covered here are the ones that are hardy in temperate zones and may be grown year around in the home landscape. The other type which we will not cover are the non-hardy types that are grown in greenhouses and sold through florists outlets. They are meant to be enjoyed as a houseplant and will generally not survive in the landscape.

Chrysanthemums perform best in a full sun situation although they will survive with partial shade but not flower well. They are known as a "short-day" plant which means that flower buds are triggered when the length of the night is longer than the day. It is really the night darkness that is the trigger. When grown in the greenhouse, a short period with the lights on in the middle of the night will prevent them from developing flower buds.

In addition to sunlight, they prefer a well drained soil but do not like droughty conditions.

Generally, hardy chrysanthemums should be planted in a similar fashion to other perennials. Beds or borders should be prepared to allow an adequate level of organic matter and to assure proper drainage.

For best survival rates, chrysanthemums should be planted in the spring as new plants from cuttings. Planting mums in the fall may be a problem where winters are cold.

Chrysanthemums bear their flowers at the tips of branches. So, it one plant that needs to be pinched in the spring to encourage the development of more branches. Generally this occurs around Memorial Day and again before the 4th of July. After that date, mums begin to set flower buds so it is too late to pinch.

Mums are also known to have an above average use of nutrients during the growing season. They will often benefit from an additional application of fertilizer during the summer.

Some people have difficulty growing mums and keeping them coming back from year to year as they should. One reason for this is that many people buy chrysanthemums in bloom in the fall around Halloween. After the holiday, they plant them in the soil and are often disappointed when they do not make it through the winter. One reason for this may be that, planting them so late in the season in full bloom, they may not have time to establish a proper root system to survive heaving and thawing of the soil during the winter.

If the plants are the type of mum that is truly hardy for your USDA Hardiness Zone, they should not need additional winter cover. Late planted mums may have difficulty overwintering properly.

Commercially, most chrysanthemums are propagated by soft-wood cuttings which are fairly easy to do.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

 

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