Gerald L. Klingaman
Chrysanthemum x morifolium
Plant Common Name
Garden Chrysanthemum, Garden Mum
Nothing says fall like beautiful mounds of brightly colored mums. Originating from eastern Asia, the common chrysanthemum has been cultivated for centuries, and there are thousands of varieties available that come in a wide array of colors and floral forms. The garden mum is a long-time favorite for fall gardens and greenhouse displays, with its long-lasting, showy blossoms held above mounds of lustrous foliage.
In spring, this clump-forming herbaceous perennial puts forth dense stems lined with medium to deep green, fragrant leaves that are deeply lobed. Mums may begin blooming any time from late-summer to late-fall, depending on the cultivar. The fragrant flowers may be single and daisy-like, semi-doubled, or fully double and can come in many hues, including red, orange, yellow, white, purple, pink, bronze, burgundy or any bicolored combination. Insects pollinate the blooms, and on rare occasion plants can self-sow.
Ornamental chrysanthemums grow best in full sun and fertile, well-drained growing medium. Although typically planted as seasonal garden or greenhouse annuals, they can also be used as border perennials, with some cultivars overwintering in USDA Hardiness Zone 5. In late spring to early summer, their stems may be pinched back to ensure a more uniform growing habit and heavier flowering. Many cultivars are only marginally hardy and commonly treated as annuals. Mums look best planted in masses in mixed borders or in containers. Some are primarily grown for the cut flower industry or as exhibition specimens.
There 13 classes of chrysanthemums based on floral form. These are:
Irregular Incurve: These highly ornamental mum flowers are very large, fully double and favorite specialty mums for exhibitions. The upper petals are long, loose and dense and curve inward, creating a flower with a fluffy, rounded top. Towards the bottom of the blooms long petals loosely fall downwards and curl to create what’s called a “skirt”.
Reflex: Bushy and uniform, these fully double flowers have a flattened top and flattened petals that curve downwards.
Regular Incurve: Almost completely spherical, these fully double flowers have rounded petals that curve upwards and inwards towards the flower’s center. They are much like irregular incurves but are smaller and lack skirts.
Decorative: Most of the standard cushion mums on the market have decorative flowers. These blooms are fully double and look much like reflex flowers, but their petals face outward rather than downward.
Intermediate Incurve: As the name suggests, these flowers are the intermediate between irregular and regular incurved flowers, in form as well as size. Their fully double blooms have rounded petals that curve upwards and inwards. They are looser than regular incurves, but lack a defined skirt, unlike irregular incurves.
Pompon: Tight, neat and button-like, pompons are fully double and tend to have flattened tops when first emerging, but the tops become rounder as the flowers age. Flower sizes vary from small to medium.
Single or Semi-Double: Often daisy-like in appearance, single or semi-double mums have central or disc florets that are visible. These tend to be flattened and their petals radiate outward from the center.
Anemone: These are similar to semi-double flowers except their disc flowers are larger, raised and cushion-like. It is almost as if the blooms have a pompon-type flower surrounded by ray petals that radiate outward from the center.
Spoon: Daisy-like in appearance, spoon-type mums may be single or semi-double and have central or disc florets that are visible. Their ray florets (petals) are slender at the base and have rounded, flared tips with a spoon-like appearance.
Quill: These are generally fully double and have loose, linear, tubular petals.
Spider: One of the most fantastic of all mum flowers, spiders are fully double and have long, thin, tubular ray petals that are slightly curved or hooked at the ends. They often have a loose, moppy appearance.
Brush & Thistle: These may be single or double and have fine, tubular petals that ascend upward giving the flowers a brush-like appearance.
Exotic or unclassified: These flowers fall outside all other Chrysanthemum x morifolium floral classifications.