Mum's the Word: Growing Chrysanthemums


Country MoonOne of the most glorious things that happen when the air turns crisp at this time of year is the explosion of color. Certainly, the turning of the leaves and showy pumpkins are a big part of this but, also a big part, are the brilliantly colored chrysanthemums that characterize this season.

Chrysanthemums, or “mums” as they are often called, have always been my favorite flowers. Sorry, roses, but mums’ cheerfulness can’t help but bring a smile to your face. They are used in many of autumn’s colorful displays. Yet, they are perhaps the most misunderstood flower.

Are they annuals or perennials? There have been countless times that I have planted them in the flower gardens and sometimes they survive the winter and sometimes they don’t. What’s the deal here?

Well, there are two distinct varieties, namely florist mums and garden mums. They both are derived from the original plant, but today’s hybrids in both categories are results of hybridization between several species. The result is different types of mums that perform for two distinct purposes.

array of mums
Photo by natalysavina/Adobe Stock

Florist mums are the large flower pots that you find in supermarkets at this time of year that have many possible bloom forms. They are grown in greenhouses and produce few, if any, underground runners which are necessary to survive cold temperatures. Garden mums, also called hardy mums, are perennials which do produce underground runners, which make them able to survive frigid winters and bloom the next season. The confusion comes because they both make great container plants.

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