Popular in both gardens and bouquets, chrysanthemums have something to offer everyone! Also called “mums,” there are two flower families associated with them—Chrysanthemum and Dendranthema. Chrysanthemum flowers are very closely related to daisies and asters, and can bloom from spring to fall, depending on how they are planted. Plus, they attract butterflies.
Would you like to know more about these ornate and decorative flowers? Read on for some chrysanthemum meanings, facts, and trivia!
Meet the ‘Mum!
The chrysanthemum can grow from 1 to 3 feet in height as well as width, and can be either annual (planted yearly) or perennial (planted once to grow back year after year) depending on how you choose to plant them. They can serve as the centerpiece of your garden or line the edge of it with glorious color and a variety of shapes. There are over ten different classes of flower shapes to the chrysanthemum, including:
- Regular incurve, with petals that curve up toward the center uniformly,
- Irregular incurve, with petals that curve up each in different ways,
- Pompon, which points straight out from the center,
- Single and semi-double, which look a lot like their cousin the daisy, and
- Quill, which features tube-like petals that fall outward from the center.
Chrysanthemums were cultivated in China starting around the 15th century BCE, and have been growing there for about 2,500 years. They were used in a lot of herbal medicines, and their regal beauty quickly became associated with nobility and royalty. Across the sea in Japan, the flower became associated with the sun, making it part of the royal throne and the Imperial Seal when it was brought by migrating Buddhist monks. Even its name, chrysanthemum, is Greek for “gold flower” (chrysos = gold and anthos = flower), indicating the importance they carry in Western culture as well.
Symbols and Meanings
Flowers have long been associated with spiritual and even secular symbolism, and the chrysanthemum has been an important part of this language for centuries. Aside from its associations with royalty, the flower has been used to honor the dead and comfort the bereaved. It has also been used to symbolize loyalty and friendship in the Victorian language of flowers. Today, it is commonly given to mothers on Mother’s Day. It is the official birth flower of the month of November, and is thus associated with the Zodiac sign Scorpio. Because of its many layers, it is also associated with the emotional heart chakra.
A Rainbow of Mums
The color of the flower might also affect its meaning, and chrysanthemums come in almost every color imaginable—even blue. Since they have been cultivated for so long, many hybrids have emerged, offering gardeners and florists a rich array of reds, pinks, yellows, purples, and oranges to choose from. From the Highland Pink Sheffield to the Jasper to the Peach Centerpiece or the deep red Bravo, chrysanthemums offer a hue perfect for any centerpiece, bouquet, or garden theme.
Since chrysanthemums are often given as potted plants for Mother’s Day gifts, may of them start their lives as indoor plants. Caring for them is a simple matter of providing loose soil and plenty of light in a cool, dry place. Since they bloom mostly in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, it is best to maintain that temperature for them if you don’t plan on planting them outdoors. They can survive the summer and even the frost in a garden, so if getting them into your flowerbed is the plan, keeping them comfortable while in the pot is a huge step in the right direction.
Planting Your Mums
Chrysanthemums can be planted from seed or from cuttings, as well as transplanted from pots. If you plan on planting them as perennials, it is a good idea to plant them in early spring after the ground is thawed. This gives them the whole summer and fall to extend roots far into the ground for overwintering, raising their chance of survival during the winter. Otherwise they are commonly planted as budding occurs toward the fall, since that is when they bloom. Whether you plant them for annual or perennial blooming also affects how deep you plant them, since chrysanthemums have shallow roots. The root system also affects what kind of soil they can bear—loose soil that drains quickly and easily is what they thrive in, and if the root tips are sitting in water, they will eventually rot. The plants need full sun, too, so make sure you plant them in a spot where they will get plenty.
The plants grow to be up to 3 feet high, but they bud best when they are kept pruned to about 15-20 inches, depending on the type. This is especially true for potted chrysanthemums and annuals, which can provide bursts of flower twice in the year if pruned properly. Pruning also affects the size and number of flowers: the more flowers, the smaller they will be, but having larger flowers means having fewer of them. To have more flowers, prune or pinch off the tips of the plant, and for larger flowers, remove some of the buds.
Feeding and Protecting Chrysanthemums
Annual chrysanthemums don’t really need to be fed, but perennials need it about once a month, preferably with a liquid fertilizer. They actually need this more than moisture, as it promotes their growth and heightens the likelihood that they will survive the frosts of winter. Natural predators include earwigs, aphids, and caterpillars, and these are easily controlled as with mild pesticides. Chrysanthemums are fairly hardy plants and are not susceptible to many scourge diseases, either. They might attract mildew or fungus, but managing these is simply a matter of pulling off affected leaves before the problem can spread all over the plant.
Keeping Perennials Warm in Winter
Frost is killer to chrysanthemums, and overwintering them can be a challenge. It is actually a good idea to winter them indoors and maintain the soil and temperature they like best. Other ways to protect your mums in the garden include adding extra mulch or organic matter for the duration of the season to prevent frost. It actually takes a lot of sustained cold to cause the ground to freeze, so more southerly climates can have a lot of success with this method, while northerly climates will find overwintering a bit more difficult without an indoor option.
Bouquets and Decorations
Chrysanthemums can make beautiful bouquets, adorning vases and arrangements with ease if cared for properly. Cutting the stems on a slant every few days can help the flowers stay looking fresh for up to three weeks, especially if you pull off the leaves. Pair them with dahlias, daisies, and sprays of berries or leaves for some gorgeous fall arrangements. With so many colors and classes of chrysanthemums to choose from, you can even pair them with each other!
Chrysanthemums have been capturing people’s hearts for thousands of years, and with all the beauty they share with the world, it is no wonder. With everything you’ve just learned about these regal blooms, you can try your hand at growing some of your own. They have a reputation for being difficult, but as you’ve just learned, all it takes is a little maintenance to make chrysanthemums a colorful and attractive part of your home and garden!