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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

Start Early for Beautiful Chrysanthemums

chrysanthemum flowers
One day's harvest of my 2020 mums, including Vesuvio, Apricot Alexis, Seaton's Ruby and River City.

If you’re on Instagram and follow any flower growers or floral designers, you’ve probably seen beautiful photos of mums in all kinds of colors and forms. If you want to grow those kinds of mums, you have to start with rooted cuttings, and the only places to find those are local chrysanthemum societies and/or King’s Mums. I ordered rooted cuttings from King’s Mums back in January, and I’ll be planting those outside this week, in mid-March.

The funny thing about chrysanthemums is that you have to keep cutting them back. It seems counterproductive, but I trust in the accumulated wisdom of people who have grown mums for years – for generations even. Here in Northern California I cut back mums a couple of times before the Fourth of July. After that I let them grow, but I start taking off some of the buds (that's called disbudding, and you can read about it on the King's site). Again, it seems odd to remove so much growth, but if you disbud, you’ll have bigger flowers.

chrysanthemum flowers
'Flair' is a spider mum that I bought from King's Mums

Chrysanthemums are perennials, so you can keep the ones you grow this year and have flowers again the following year. The normal cycle will be active growth starting in spring and continuing all summer, then gorgeous flowers in the fall, followed by a winter period of dying back and going dormant. I have plants from previous years, and I ignore them all winter long, then I cut them back to a few inches high in early spring (about the same time I plant new rooted cuttings). I cut them back once or twice before the Fourth of July, then I disbud them in late summer to get big blooms in fall.

Once you see the variety available in heirloom chrysanthemums, you’ll probably get hooked. Find someone who grows them and pick their brain for more growing advice. And don’t forget to beg for a few rooted cuttings. Heirloom mums aren’t easy to find and King’s sells out early, so knowing a local grower is a good thing. In the US, the National Chrysanthemum Society has a website and information, and from there you can find your local branch to get info on cutting sales. Good luck and send me photos of your mums in the fall!

A few mums from 2020. Clockwise from upper left:

Bouquet with pink 'Annie Girl,' spider mum 'Flair' and mauve 'River City.'

Yellow 'Kokka No Waza' growing in the garden - note that we corral it with twine.

Bouquet of yellow 'Kokka No Waza' and small white spray of 'Vesuvio.'

Bouquet of red and white zinnias and the bronze spider mum 'Senkyo Kenshin.'

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