Potted mums are a major part of our autumn landscape, but these colorful plants are usually short-term decorative items rather than permanent residents of our gardens here in the Midwest.
Mums belong to a genus made up of many different species. Originally from China, chrysanthemums went to Japan in the 8th century and became an honored part of Japanese culture. They have been in this country since the 18th century, but have only been a major player in the flower industry since the 1930’s. Since then breeders have made them available in many sizes and shapes, and growers have learned to adjust the number of night hours in greenhouses, so that mums are now available as cut flowers at any time of the year.
While they bloom in the fall in the northern hemisphere, they are Mother’s Day flowers in the southern hemisphere. The Chrysanthemum Society divides them into 13 different classes, depending on the type of bloom (e.g. spider, spoonbill).
To grow these plants as perennials here in the Midwest, it is best to buy small plants hardy in your zone in the spring and pinch them back in the summer to promote branching, and therefore, more blooms per plant in the fall. Stop pinching in July.
In my garden the old-fashioned perennial variety ‘Sheffield’ is extremely hardy and blooms the latest in October. (It has pink daisy flowers in mid-October that last 2 weeks in a vase.) It is a Korean mum, and its parents are C.rubellum and C.sibiricum.