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Chrysanthemums

By Eileen Price, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Think of Chrysanthemums and the giant blossoms sold at football games come to mind. In recent years, however, thousands of new varieties have been developed with a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

Chrysanthemum in Greek means golden flower. Some species have been cultivated in China and Japan for more than 3,000 years.

Botanically speaking, shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum), feverfew (C. parthenium) and pyrethrum (C. coccineum), also known as painted daisy, all are chrysanthemums.

The flowers most of us think of as "mums" fall into two general categories: the multi-bloom, bush types bred to produce many sprays of small flowers; and the single bloom types bred to produce one large bloom on each stem.

Bush types sometimes are called cushion-mums or azaleamums and can grow from 1 to 4 feet tall. The height of the plant varies depending on when the plant was put into the garden and when it was pinched back. Flower size on some types can be increased by removing all but one bud early in the growing season. Side shoots also can be removed to result in one sturdy stem bearing a single large bloom on top.

Most of our chrysanthemums come from specialty growers such as Yoder Brothers of Ohio or George J. Ball, Inc. of Illinois. But if you wish to become a mum hobbyist or simply want a special named variety, you can obtain plants from any number of mail order catalogs. A dazzling array of single and multiple color combinations make choices difficult. Or you may decide to order plants according to the type of flower -- pompon, spider, quill, spoon or irregular incurve.

Mums are fun to grow. They are relatively shallow-rooted, easy to care for, and can be multiplied successfully by division in the spring. You can share extra plants with friends and neighbors or use divisions to create a larger flower bed. Just give these plants well-drained, amended soil, and plenty of sunshine. When the days get shorter and the nights cooler, you will be rewarded with fabulous fall color in your garden.

Look around now to get ideas about what kinds of mum blooms most interest you.

If chrysanthemums really begin to catch your fancy, know there are chrysanthemum societies, special catalogs, and whole books on the flower. But after reading several books on growing mums from seed, I decided to buy most of my plants from local nurseries and order special variety selections as rooted cuttings or divisions from catalogs.

No matter where you purchase your plants, or which color, size or shape appeals to you most, remember mum's the word in fall flowers.

For more information about chrysanthemums or designing a garden for fall color, call your local office of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010