In the fall garden, chrysanthemums are the showstoppers, blooming prolifically well after other garden plants have called it quits for the season. Native to China and prized for over 2,000 years, the name “chrysanthemum” comes from the Greek words for gold (chrysos) and flower (anthos) and is often affectionately shortened to “mum.”

Research into chrysanthemums will lead to some confusion as you encounter two botanical names: Chrysanthemum sp. and Dendrathema sp. The plants were originally named and placed in the genus Chrysanthemum in the 1700s. Then, in the 1990s, they were moved to the genus of Dendrathema because of the sheer number of varieties being developed. That decision was soon reversed, and Chrysanthemum is once again the official scientific name.

Chrysanthemums are among the most popular fall flowers in the United States. They’re part of the daisy family and can thrive as perennials, annuals, or shrubs.

They’re easy to grow and undoubtedly eye-catching. These diverse flowers – often referred to as mums – are excellent for novice and expert gardeners alike. 

In this guide to growing chrysanthemums, we’ll go over:

  • The history of the chrysanthemum flower
  • Mum varieties and classifications
  • Tips for growing chrysanthemums at home
  • Frequently asked questions

What is a Chrysanthemum?

The chrysanthemum is a member of the Asteraceae family of ornamental flowering plants. This large plant family includes popular blooms such as marigolds, cosmos, zinnias, dahlias, and other daisy-like flowers. Many members of this family are known to exhibit large, ornamental flower heads and dazzling, vivid colors.

Urano Red-Bronze chrysanthemums“Urano Red-Bronze” has an anemone-style bloom with a darker center.

Chrysanthemum History

The history of the chrysanthemum began in ancient China, where the flower was used as a culinary herb for teas and salads. The flower eventually made its way to Japan by the 8th century, becoming a beloved symbol of royalty and happiness.

In the 17th century, the mum arrived in Europe. Karl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, combined the Greek words chrysos and anthemon, meaning “gold flower.” The chrysanthemum eventually traveled to the United States during the colonial era, and it has since become known as the “Queen of the Fall Flowers.”

Chrysanthemum Varieties

You may see the term cultivar when researching chrysanthemums or any plant, for that matter. Cultivar is short for cultivated varieties and refers to plants that have been bred over time to have specific desired traits.

Hundreds of chrysanthemum varieties range in color, shape, and appearance, giving the flower aesthetic appeal in a wide range of gardens. 

Among cultivars are different classifications of chrysanthemums. The National Chrysanthemum Society (NCS) has grouped mums into 13 categories that distinguish each plant’s shape and petal variety.

The most common types in home gardens are decorative, anemone, single, and incurve mums. The table below describes the distinguishing characteristics of each mum classification.

Classification Characteristics
Decorative  Flat bloom with shorter petals
Mixture of reflex and incurve florets
Anemone  Raised cushion-like center surrounded by flat petals
Typically larger than four inches wide
Single and Semi-Double Daisy-like in appearance with a visible center 
One or more rows of ray florets
Regular Incurve Spherical bloom
Petals incurve to form a ball
Reflex  Downward curved petals
Full, flattened blooms
Pompom/Pompon Small globular bloom of one to four inches
Petals curve to fully cover the center of the flower
Intermediate Incurve Shorter petals that are partially incurved
Not as tightly incurved as other similar classes
Spoon Flat bloom with ray florets
Petals have spoon-like tips 
Quill Straight and tubular petals 
Six or more inches in diameter
Spider Thin petals that coil at the ends
Florets are long and tubular
Brush/Thistle Fine petals that splay out like a paintbrush
Typically less than two inches in diameter
Irregular Incurve Large blooms of six to eight inches
Loosely incurved petals with irregular lower florets
Exotic Blooms do not fit into any specific classification
Petals and centers may fit into one or more classes

When researching this vibrant flower, you may also encounter a differentiation between florist and garden mums.

Florist chrysanthemums are annual flowers and will die at the end of the season. These blooms are most popularly used for seasonal decorations during the fall months. You’ll find florist mums in potted displays at your local flower shop or grocery store. 

Garden chrysanthemums are hardy perennials that are often sold outdoors. This variety of mum is best suited for your garden and will grow back year after year if properly cared for. You’ll need to select garden mums if you plan to successfully grow and maintain the flower from seed.

How to Grow Chrysanthemums in Your Garden

Like all plants, chrysanthemums grow from seeds. However, there are many mum seed varieties that often yield plants inferior to those you can buy. 

Many gardeners prefer to buy mums because they know how they’ll contribute aesthetically to the garden. Mums grown from seeds typically differ from the parent plant in color and shape. 

If you’re eager to grow your flowers from seed and don’t mind the uncertainty, you can plant mums in an outdoor flower bed in the spring. Cover them with mulch, water them regularly, and watch new shoots appear as the season progresses.

Stem cuttings are the most efficient way to propagate new chrysanthemums in your garden. The Missouri Botanical Garden provides step-by-step instructions for cutting mum stems:

  • When your chrysanthemums have grown eight to 10 inches tall in the early spring to early summer, you can make stem cuttings. 
  • Remove leafy growths, leaving a couple of inches of bare stem at the base of the plant. 
  • Plant the stem clipping into a soil mixture of peat moss, sand, and perlite.
  • Water the cutting daily to help it form roots.
  • Expose the clipping to early morning sunlight each day, but ensure it doesn’t exceed 75 degrees.

If you’ve successfully propagated chrysanthemums from seeds or cuttings – or if you have a batch of them from the store – you can create new growths through root division.

Root division involves digging up the root ball of an established mum and cutting it into sections. Once you’ve divided the roots into several sections, you can plant the separate parts to yield new mums.

Florist chrysanthemumsFlorist chrysanthemums are often button-shaped.

Where to Grow Chrysanthemums

Ensuring your chrysanthemum’s growth may seem like a tall task. Luckily, the flower’s longtime presence and popularity have provided us with knowledge of its preferences and climate needs.

Light Needs

Chrysanthemums flourish best in full sunlight. Full sun translates to six to eight hours of natural light every day. If you can’t achieve this, five to six hours of light is sufficient. If your chrysanthemums don’t get enough sunlight, they’ll appear weak and produce fewer flower heads than a healthy plant.

Keeping your mum in a bright area will help it grow and keep it dry.

Chrysanthemums are prone to developing harmful diseases like leaf spots and powdery mildew. Placing your mum in an area with morning light and steady air circulation will keep the flower dry and help prevent mildew growth.

Mums’ flower buds appear in late summer when days are darker for longer. For this reason, you should avoid planting chrysanthemums near sources of artificial light. Street lights and porch lamps can disrupt the flower’s natural response to light and interfere with growth. 

Soil Needs

Chrysanthemums grow best in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Avoid planting your mum in an area prone to standing water. If planting your mums in a high-level area isn’t possible, construct a raised bed to keep them from drowning. Raised beds also allow you to effectively control the soil feeding your chrysanthemum.

Garden mums prefer soil rich in key nutrients. You can add compost, manure, or other organic matter around your chrysanthemum to boost growth and improve soil structure. 

You can also help your chrysanthemums grow by preventing root competition. Root competition occurs when your mums are too close to a larger plant, inhibiting growth and nutrient uptake. 

If you’re working with limited space and can’t completely avoid root competition, you can place an underground barrier between the two plants. An underground sheet of metal or wood buried eight to twelve inches deep should do the trick.

chrysanthemums“Barbara” is a midseason bloomer with small pompon blooms.

Best Time to Grow Chrysanthemums

When and where to plant your chrysanthemums is a shifty topic because all locations vary in temperature, moisture, and light. A chrysanthemum in one geographic location might fare better than one in a different location, no matter the care provided.

Luckily, the NCS developed a general calendar to help gardeners understand the growth cycle of mums and how to best care for them at different stages.

Season Tips
January and February Decide how many plants you want and where you’ll plant them. Reach out to local nurseries for available cultivars.
March Place your plant order and assemble your gardening supplies.
April and May Prepare plant beds with fertilized soil. Place plants in three-inch containers with potting soil. Place mums in the flower bed once the threat of frost has passed.

Pinch the tips of garden cultivars with four or more leaves. Spray for aphids and mites if necessary. Water your mums if rainfall is infrequent. Fertilize weekly..

July Spray for insects every two weeks until the end of the season. Water when needed.
August Shade plants according to your desired bloom date. Continue to fertilize as needed.
September Discontinue shading after daylight is present less than 13 hours per day. Prune away all buds except the main center one. Continue with insect control, fertilization, and watering as needed.
October Install protective covering if you’re in an area with high winds, rain, or freezing temperatures. Discontinue fertilization.
November Prepare beds for overwintering. Cut plants back so they’re about four inches tall. 
For severe cold weather areas, cover plants with straw after the first frost.
December Relax and wait for the next growing season to begin, noting what did and didn’t work for your chrysanthemums’ growth.

Final Thoughts 

Now that you understand how to grow chrysanthemums in your garden, you can plan for the next growing season. With the proper care and maintenance, these lovely fall bloomers will grace your garden year after year with vibrant colors and bold shapes.

If you’ve mastered mums and are ready to discover other flowers for your nursery, you can check out our garden guides for additional tips and resources.

Further Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Will chrysanthemums grow back year after year?

Garden chrysanthemums are perennial plants, which means they’ll come back each year if planted correctly. To ensure your mums can grow back healthy and strong, you must plant them in spring so they have time to establish roots before chilly fall weather settles in.

Are Chrysanthemums easy to grow?

According to Missouri Botanical Garden’s guide to Chrysanthemums for the Home Garden, mums are “quite easy to grow in the garden; however, some are hardy only in mild climates.” Mums have shallow root systems, which allows you to easily dig them up and transport them if they aren’t thriving in a particular area.

You also have several options for how you want to grow your mums. You can buy new ones each year or try propagating chrysanthemums from seeds, stem cuttings, or root division.

How much do chrysanthemums cost?

You can buy a chrysanthemum plant from your local garden center for about $15-$20. You can buy a pack of mum seeds for $3-$10, depending on how many seeds are in a packet.

What is overwintering?

Overwintering is the process of helping your plants survive the winter.

Many plants naturally overwinter by entering a dormancy phase after the growing season. You can help your mums prepare for winter by discontinuing fertilization in the fall. This will discourage the plants from developing new blooms vulnerable to low temperatures.

Depending on your region’s climate, overwintering your mums could be as simple as moving them to a sheltered area. You can also dig a hole in the ground and set your mum’s container down in the spot. This technique uses the earth’s naturally insulating qualities to keep your flowers’ roots from freezing.

If your chrysanthemums are in a flower bed that you can’t move, you can cover the bed with a frost blanket during freezing temperatures.

Editorial Contributors
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Elisabeth Beauchamp

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Elisabeth Beauchamp is a content producer for Today’s Homeowner’s Lawn and Windows categories. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Journalism and Linguistics. When Elisabeth isn’t writing about flowers, foliage, and fertilizer, she’s researching landscaping trends and current events in the agricultural space. Elisabeth aims to educate and equip readers with the tools they need to create a home they love.

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Lora Novak

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Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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