Types of Chrysanthemums for the Home Flower Garden
There are many types of chrysanthemums that do well in the home garden, returning year after year as hardy perennials. While you might see spectacular football mums or spider chrysanthemums in a florist shop or at a National Chrysanthemum Society flower show, most of the hardy types of chrysanthemums are the cushion, single, or pompom variety.
The National Chrysanthemum Society lists 13 classes of mums that competitors can grow and show, but Purdue University's Horticultural Extension Office reduces the number of types of chrysanthemums for the home garden to eight types. Most types come in a variety of colors, including yellow, white, pink, and bronze. The name chrysanthemum actually means "golden flower," reminding gardeners of the flower's wild cousins in its native Asia and Europe.
The Eight Types of Chrysanthemums
According to the plant tip sheet provided by Purdue University, there are eight types of chrysanthemums suitable for the home garden. These include:
- Single: Single-type chrysanthemums have a flat center and one to five rows of petals radiating out from the center, which gives them the appearance of daisies. The leaves, however, are the telltale toothed or lobed mum leaves, and the scent of crushed mum leaves is unmistakeable. You can easily find these cultivars at the garden center, and they tend to act like hardy perennials.
- Cushion: Cushion mums sport low, bush-like foliage and are usually covered with small, quarter-sized chrysanthemum flowers. These are also readily available at garden centers and may be hardy perennials in USDA zones 6–10.
- Pompom: As the name suggests, the flowers resemble small pompoms on the end of each stalk.
- Anemone: Anemone mums are characterized by a raised, dome-like center. The petals look a lot like the single mums. Most are hardy, but cultivars may be difficult to find in mass retail stores. You're more likely to find anemone mums available for sale at online nurseries or small local nurseries.
- Spoon: Spoon mums feature small, cup-like ends on the petals. Literally, each petal on the central flower disk resembles a spoon.
- Spider: Spider mums are often found in florist shops. They have long, curling, curved petals with hooks on the end that make the flowers resembled crazy-legged spiders.
- Quill: Quill mums have long, straight petals that are rolled naturally into tubes, like an old-fashioned quill pen. Unfortunately, very few of these cultivars are hardy. If you're buying a quill mum at a garden center, check the tag. Treat it like an annual, unless you buy it from a reputable nursery and they state it's one of the hardy quill mums. A bit of extra mulch may protect plants and nurture them through the winter.
- Decorative: Decorative mums have incurved or reflex petals. What does that mean? The petals on these mums either curve upwards and back towards the flower center (incurved) or down and away from the flower center (reflex). While you're more likely to find such mums among the show and exposition flowers sold online, you can find some at specialty stores nationwide.
Caring for Hardy Mums for the Garden
Look for single, anemone, or pompom mums if you're seeking hardy mums for the garden. While others in the list of eight may be fine, those among the first three types are usually the most hardy. They bloom before the first frost, and blossoms often last through several frosts, depending on your gardening zone.
Sunlight and Warmth
Mums need full sunlight, defined as six or more hours of sunshine per day. You can grow them in pots and keep pots on your front porch, front staircase or deck. If a frost threatens, pull the pots indoors for the night, then set them back outside.
Soil and Fertilizer
Mums grown directly in the garden soil require fertile, well-drained soil. Adding a good organic compost to the soil adds natural nutrients. Mums benefit from fertilizer, and one or two applications in the summer time of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 fertilizer helps the plant thrive. If you'd prefer to use an organic fertilizer, make compost tea or use a good, well-rotted manure.
Pruning mums is called pinching. You need to remove about 1–2 inches from the tips of the plant to encourage it to bloom later in the season. If you forget to prune or pinch your mums in the spring, they'll bloom but may surprise you with summertime blossoms.
To prune or pinch mums, cut off the tips about 1–2 inches. The first pruning should be done the last week in May in most gardening zones. The second pruning should be done around the 4th of July. After that, make sure your mums are well watered throughout the summertime heat. They will reward you with blossoms throughout the fall. Cut off some blooms to bring indoors, or enjoy the many types of chrysanthemums in your flower garden.
© 2011 Jeanne Grunert