It’s time to start thinking mums!

Published 9:47 am Friday, July 28, 2023

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August is here — shepherding in the end of summer and painting the landscape in the warm hues of late summer flowers and sunset horizons! It’s the month that offers a transitional pace into a new season as we cope with the heat and continue with our daily routines. Start planning for all your fall plants that will display the beautiful colors of autumn, which includes a traditional favorite – mums.

It’s time to start thinking mums. Chrysanthemums or simply “mums” are fall favorites and offer great coloration! The name “chrysanthemum” is a derivative of two Greek words: chrysos meaning gold and anthemon meaning flower. Chrysanthemums are herbaceous, perennial flowering plants with lots of curb appeal which are native to Asia and northeastern Europe.

Chrysanthemum leaves resemble the closely-related mugwort weed which is sometimes called wild chrysanthemum. Our modern cultivated chrysanthemums exhibit a greater display of color than those found in nature. Their flowers can be seen in several forms including daisy-like, decorative, pompons or buttons. The chrysanthemums have many hybrids and multitudes of cultivars developed for horticultural purposes.

These plants offer a wide variety of floral colors including gold, white, off-white, yellow, bronze, red, burgundy, pink, lavender and purple with the most important hybrid being Chrysanthemum × morifolium. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit has been awarded to over 140 varieties of chrysanthemums.

Chrysanthemums are composites since their flower heads are made up of tiny individual flowers (disk and ray florets). The disk florets (in the center of the bloom head) are considered perfect flowers since they have both male and female reproductive organs, and the ray florets (on the perimeter and viewed as petals) are considered imperfect flowers since they have only the female productive organs.

Yellow or white chrysanthemum flowers (C. morifolium) are boiled to make chrysanthemum tea in parts of Asia and added to rice wine in Korea for flavor. Also, chrysanthemum leaves are steamed (boiled) and used as veggie greens and the petals are mixed with a thick snake meat soup to boost the aroma in Chinese cuisine. And, small chrysanthemums are used in Japan as a garnish.

In some countries of Europe, chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and are used only for funerals or on graves. In some Asian Pacific countries (China, Japan and Korea), the white chrysanthemums are symbolic of lamentation and grief. In other countries, chrysanthemums represent honesty. Japan celebrates the Festival of Happiness each year in recognition of this flower, which is their national flower.

However, in the United States, the chrysanthemum flower is usually considered positive and cheerful and used extensively in the landscape during the fall. In general, chrysanthemums (daisy-like with a typically yellow center and a decorative pompon) symbolize optimism and joy. Mums are the birth flower of November, the 13th wedding anniversary flower and the official flower of the city of Chicago.

Mums can grow to be 2-3 feet high, depending on the specific cultivar and growing conditions, and are available in many flower forms by the shape and arrangement of their petals. The most popular flower form is the decorative which consists of several long, broad petals masking the center. When grown as container plants, be sure to maintain routine maintenance to insure health and vigor.

Chrysanthemums should be planted in the full sun and in well-drained, fertile soils. They are photoperiodic meaning (in their case) they bloom in response to the shorter days and longer nights of the fall season. Do not plant chrysanthemums near street lights or night lights since artificial lighting may interrupt their reproductive cycle. And, do not plant chrysanthemums too close together since good air circulation between them helps reduce the chance of disease development.

There are hardy mums (stolons) and florist mums (few or no stolons, and less likely to over-winter). For those mums planted directly into the ground, divide them every three years in the spring to revitalize them. Fertilize chrysanthemums once per month during the growing season but allow sufficient time to harden-off for winter. Don’t prune in fall since existing branches offer root protection in the winter.

Pinching (removing the tips of new growth) chrysanthemums in the spring produce a more compact, bushy plant which will develop lots of blooms for fall. Do not pinch in the summer because bud set for flowering is occurring and such pinching would prevent effective flowering.

In landscaping, chrysanthemums are valued for their fall colors thus helping complete the annual cycle of having color each season of the year. Their curb appeal is best when planted in a mass but don’t plant too close together.

Mums are beautiful fall plants available in spectacular autumn colors such as ambers, gold, oranges, purples, violets, whites and shades of red and pink lasting throughout the fall months and into early winter. Plan a visit to your local garden center of choice later this month and next to begin selecting those colors that best fit your wants and needs for the upcoming fall season. September offers the appropriate weather to start planting your mums in the landscape or displaying them in container settings. Have a happy and blessed August!

Seagle is a Sustainability Verifier, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International) LLC, Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning (University System of Georgia) and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to csi_seagle