Fall is in the air! Everywhere you look, retail stores and garden centers are adorned with beautiful displays of garden chrysanthemums, often referred to as “mums”. These plants thrive in our North Texas Fall climate and will flower annually. Mine often produce a colorful show of vibrant flowers both in early Spring and again in Fall before the first heavy frost. Garden mums are available in a wide variety of colors ranging from white to red, yellow, orange, pink, purple and more in many colorful hues. The flowers vary in style including Anemone, Pompom, Daisy, Spider and more. These perennial plants generally last about five seasons before having to be replaced. Chrysanthemums belong to the Asteraceae family which includes many other well-known flowers such as sunflowers, zinnias, and dahlias. This family of flowers has a single flower head with many hundreds of tiny flowers that grow out of one head.
The history of garden chrysanthemums traces back to early 15th century China where, according to early writings, they were used as a flowering herb thought to have lifegiving powers. The plant was used in teas, tonics, and astringents. The Chinese city of Chu-Hsien (which means Chrysanthemum City) was named in honor of the flower. Around the 8th century A.D., the chrysanthemum surfaced in Japan where the flower was so well-liked that it appeared as the crest and the Emperor’s official seal. The first chrysanthemums to reach Europe were probably introduced by Dutch explorers during the 18th century. French Huguenots imported a variety of forms from the Dutch and developed Old Purple, one of the basic mums of European gardens. The Old Purple chrysanthemum was introduced to the Americas in 1798 by John Stevens, a Hoboken, New Jersey, nursery man.(1) Today, mums are enjoyed worldwide.
Garden mums do best when planted in early spring in a well-drained site that receives an abundance of sunlight. Spacing should be about 24 inches apart to allow the plants to spread and form mounds as they mature. Plant at a depth equal to the container the plant was purchased in and water thoroughly after planting. Fertilize the plants to encourage development of thick green foliage and enhanced flower production. Water in dry fertilizer after it is applied. Fertilizer should not be applied after flower buds appear. As always, follow label instructions.(2) When starting mums indoors from seeds, allow about 10-15 days for the plant to develop before transferring to the ground. It will take about another 10-12 weeks before the transplants will bud.
Article by: Sharon McIver, Ellis County Master Gardener
Rodriguez, David Texas A&M university County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Bexar County. Extension Education in Bexar County Weekly Newsletter, Plant of the Week, October 2, 2006.