No More Boring Chrysanthemums
Updated: Feb 5, 2021
Let me tell you about my chrysanthemums. Don’t roll your eyes and say that mums are boring. I know—you’ve seen those rows of potted chrysanthemums lined up at every supermarket, home improvement store and garden nursery. But those are not the real, fabulous, fascinating, gorgeous flowers that I’m talking about. Those are BORING chrysanthemums—fine for filling a space on your front porch but not exciting. So I’ll show you my photos and you’ll change your mind about mums.
Clockwise from top left: a bucket of freshly harvested mums; Kokka No Waza, Flair, Vesuvio.
Chrysanthemums used to be for royalty, the rich and favored in imperial dynasties of Japan and China. They used to be seen in mid-century corsages here in the US, but sadly, they fell out of fashion, and from the 1980s on, it was hard to find anything but pots of boring mums meant to be plunked down on your front porch the day before Thanksgiving. Thankfully, there were always a few local mum societies still holding shows and cutting sales. And there were the people at King’s Mums, still the most widely used source for heirloom mums.
Now that you’ve seem what mums can be, I’ll fill you in on how to add them to your garden for next year. King’s Mums in Oklahoma is nearly the only place to find heirloom varieties. You order cuttings from them in January and plant them in spring. Follow their instructions carefully—they know about mums!
Cuttings will arrive in the mail in mid-March, and you immediately pot them in smallish pots. After a month or two they’ll be larger and you plant them in whatever permanent garden site you’ve chosen for them. Mums need sun, so choose a site that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight every day.
All spring and all summer the little plants will grow and they won’t need much from you until mid-July, when you cut them back. That seems counter-intuitive, but trust in the advice from King’s. By early fall you’ll see the flower buds forming and now you have to disbud. That means you take off all buds except the top one on any given stem. You can use your fingers - buds come off easily with a gentle pinch. Here again, the process seems counter-intuitive, but it gives larger flowers, so just do it.
By late October and early November, the buds will unfurl and you’ll have most beautiful mums, just in time for Thanksgiving, and all because you read this post and did what I told you. You’re welcome.