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The ancient Chinese valued plants for their symbolic and moral associations.

Chrysanthemums have been grown and hybridized for many centuries it is difficult to determine their parentage. It seems though, that they originated in China. Confucius wrote of them in 500 B.C. The ancient Chinese valued plants for their symbolic and moral associations, and the chrysanthemums which blooms in autumn, when other plants are dying off, was esteemed as a life-prolonging herb.

Chrysanthemums went to Japan in the fourth century and became its national flower. They were introduced to Europe in 1688 and arrived in America in 1798.

Pots of flowering mums are now widely available for fall planting in our gardens for an instant display of autumn color. Not all will survive, however, because these flowering transplants may not have time for their roots to settle in before winter. Those that do, should be pinched back the next spring and summer to keep them compact, and fertilized to maintain their vigor.

They need a sunny spot and regular watering but should not be in soggy ground. Their variety of colors is glorious and their flower shapes include pom pom, spider, daisy and spoon.

If you want mums to be reliably perennial in your garden, look for small plants next spring and pinch and feed them through mid July. You will then have bushy plants strongly rooted in your garden for bloom next fall and for years after.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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