A sacred flower much loved in Asian cultures such as China and Japan, Chrysanthemums come in all shapes and sizes with gorgeous large flowers in a rainbow of colours.
Not only their myriad of colours astounds, but also but the petals of different varieties come in hundreds of designs and configurations from the spidery, spiky, large round disks to the smaller petite varieties.
In this post, we will bring you everything you need to know about growing Chrysanths, Mums or chrysanthemums.
What Is A Chrysanthemum?
The genus Chrysanthemums are part of the Asteraceae or Aster family. They originated in China, Japan and some parts of Europe, particularly around the Mediterranean.
They are herbaceous flowering sub-shrubs with distinctly aromatic leaves. Species that are cultivated have much larger flower heads than the wild varieties, which have smaller pin-cushion-like flowers. They bloom in Fall and are widely grown for the cut flower industry all over the world.
Chrysanthemums have a long history with Chinese Traditional Medicine. The flowers and leaves are dried and used as a herbal treatment for hypertension, to treat fevers, and reduce inflammation.
The flower heads of pyrethrum daisy (C. cinerariifolium), are the main source of the insecticide pyrethrum, used by organic farmers.
How To Grow A Chrysanthemum?
Chrysanthemums can be grown from seeds and cuttings and can either be left in the garden or dug up and stored like Dahlias. Nurseries are full of rooted cuttings or small potted Chrysanthemums in spring. They are planted out in May after the last frost. The tall varieties require staking or support while growing whereas the dwarf or short varieties don’t. Some grow up to 3-4 feet high. They thrive in rich composted soil and are rewarding and easy to grow.
In fact, Monty Don thinks every garden should feature chrysanthemums. They provide autumn colour when most other garden plants are preparing for winter’s dormancy. They are hardy to the gardening zones of 5-9 in the US and can be grown all over the UK.
When To Plant A Chrysanthemum?
Spring is the best time to plant your Chrysanthemums. While they are growing it is advised that you pinch regularly during the growing season.
So what’s the best place for chrysanthemums in a garden?
Where To Plant Chrysanthemums?
Chrysanthemums need full sun away from trees and large shrubs. They also need space to spread so consider these factors when planning your planting.
Chrysanthemums do not thrive in shade so do pick an open sunny spot for your planting.
How To Plant Chrysanthemums?
Chrysanthemums are usually grown from cuttings. Plant in spring giving the plants ample time to grow and form blooms in Fall. They need strong root systems in order to survive winter conditions.
To grow chrysanthemums from cuttings, use a sharp knife and cut cuttings of about 3-5 inches. Cuttings can be taken in the autumn or early Spring after growth appears. Snip above a set of leaves or close to a new shoot. If there is a flower, snip the flower off as it will drain all the plant’s energy.
Plant the cuttings in loose friable soil, keeping the leaf nodes where you pulled off the leaves below the soil. New roots will grow from these nodes. Rooting hormone also helps the cuttings develop roots.
Keep the pots or trays moist, but not dripping wet. Mist sprayers work well for this.
Growing Chrysanthemums From Seed
If you plant the seeds you have collected from the previous year, be aware they are usually not true to type. They will produce random flowers not resembling the parent plants. If you want to go the seed route, plant seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before your estimated last frost date. Sow them on the surface as the seeds need light to germinate.
You can plant them out in pots or in the garden after the last spring frost. They should bloom in their first year.
What’s The Meaning Behind Chrysanthemums?
The chrysanthemum flower carries symbolic meanings of devotion, love, happiness, loyalty, happiness, joy and longevity. Centuries ago, It was believed that a single petal in the bottom of a wine glass led to a long and healthy life. The chrysanthemum is also the official flower for birthdays in November.
The Chinese philosopher Confucius was the first person to mention the beauty of chrysanthemums 500 years before the advent of Jesus. It was then described in 1548 as a perennial composite herb or shrub with double petalled brightly coloured flowers by Swedish botanist, Carl Linneas.
The name chrysanthemum comes from the Latin and Greek word Chrysanthemon referring to any plant with bright yellow flowers. Chrysós means gold, while Ánthemon means flower in Greek.
Historical Japanese traditions regard chrysanthemum flowers highly and they feature in many decorative works on paper, fabric and in artworks. Chrysanthemums were symbolic of the Japanese Emperor and the imperial royal family during the 18th and 19th centuries. The flowers signify the sun and good luck.
Chrysanthemums are called Kiku in Japanese, meaning optimism, long life, and happiness. In the US, people also believe chrysanthemums symbolise a positive outlook and cheer. On the other hand, there are some negative associations with chrysanthemums. In some European cultures, chrysanthemums are used as condolences at funerals and on graves. Older Italians and Maltese citizens believe chrysanthemums bring bad luck if brought into a home.
Why Are Chrysanthemums So Rewarding?
Did you know that Chrysanthemums can become perennials? You can also easily take cuttings and set root cuttings for starting plants for your next Spring planting. So chrysanths go a long way and you don’t have to buy new plants every year. There are more than 40 species of chrysanthemums, again an overwhelming choice for today’s gardener.
Grow them in a bed or in pots in full sun and come autumn, your garden will be the belle of the ball. They also last well in vases as long as you remember to remove the leaves and change the water often.
Chrysanthemums were introduced to the US in colonial times. Since then, they have become the “Flower of Fall” and are planted by gardeners and landscapers everywhere. Colours range from oranges, yellows, white, pinks, reds, bronzes and even some chartreuse greens.
During the first few weeks after planting, make sure to water your chrysanthemums frequently as they establish. Water slowly and evenly, ensuring no run-off. Mulching will help retain moisture.
They only need a few inches of water but remember to water more deeply and frequently during hotter and drier summers.
Chrysanthemums thrive in loam soil that is well drained. Clay and soggy soils are problematic for chrysanthemums. As they have shallow root systems, soggy soils can freeze in winter and harm the health of the plant.
How To Fertilise Chrysanthemums
Chrysanths need a balanced fertiliser with equal parts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), displayed as 10-10-10 or 1-4-0.
Like many herbaceous flowering plants, chrysanthemums produce flowers abundantly if you pinch out the growing buds. Here’s how you do it.
Getting The Most Magnificent Blooms
Pinch your growing chrysanths at the topmost growing bud, right at the tips. This will induce the plant to branch out and become bushier instead of tall and leggy. Then stop pinching by July.
You can begin pinching when your plants are about 6 inches tall. The more you pinch, the bushier your plant will be and the more flowers it will produce.
Come fall and flowering time, cut your flowers as the buds begin to open for a long vase life. Cut into the plant just above where the leaves start. Strip off the lower leaves of the stem and place them in fresh, cool water, making sure no leaves are in the water.
Go on, give Mums a whirl this spring. They will give you a rainbow of colour in your garden in Fall as you head towards the winter.
You won’t be sorry and your cuttings will go on and on.