Chrysanthemum (Mums): History, Characteristics & Cultivation

Chrysanthemums, often called mums or chrysanths, are flowering plants of the genus Chrysanthemum in the family Asteraceae. The genus Chrysanthemum contains about 30 species of plants native to Asia and northeastern Europe. Most species originate from East Asia and the center of diversity is in China. Countless horticultural varieties and cultivars exist. The name “chrysanthemum” is derived from the Greek words “chrysos,” meaning gold, and “anthemon,” meaning flower.

The plant was first cultivated in China as a flowering herb as early as the 15th century BC. Ancient Chinese writings from this period contain references to chrysanthemums. The petals and young shoots were consumed in salads, and the flowers and leaves were brewed into teas. The chrysanthemum was later adopted by the Japanese, who were so enamored with the flower that they gave it the status of royalty. The flower is used on the Emperor’s official seal and crest, and the highest level of decoration that can be awarded to an individual for distinguished service to the nation is the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum.

The chrysanthemum was introduced into European culture in the 17th century. The name “chrysanthemum” is derived from the Greek words “chrysos,” meaning gold, and “anthemon,” meaning flower. The flower became popular in Europe during the 19th century, and by the late 19th century, it was one of the most popular cut flowers in the world.

Today, chrysanthemums are grown worldwide and are especially popular in the United States, where they are known as “mums.” They’re are grown as fall-blooming ornamentals and are important in the floral industry. There are numerous cultivated species, often called mums, with more than 100 cultivars, including button, pompon, daisy, and spider forms.

The flowering season is from late Summer through to Autumn, depending on the variety. The flowers are held above the foliage on single sturdy stems. Chrysanthemum having been heavily hybridised, come in a great variety of flowers, from classic, flat, daisy-like blooms to almost globe-shaped flowers. Colours include white, cream, pink, bronze, purple, red, yellow and salmon. 

While chrysanthemums are often associated with autumn, there are varieties that bloom throughout spring, summer, and even winter, offering year-round enjoyment.

Chrysanthemum are best grown in a cool to mild climate but will grow and flower well into the milder subtropics. They prefer a full sun position in the garden with some protection from hot afternoon sun. They need free draining soil and protection from the wind.

Characteristics of Chrysanthemum

  • Size: Plant: 1-3 feet tall, Flowers: vary depending on variety (½ inch to 8 inches in diameter)
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Growth Form: Herbaceous perennial (may be grown as annual in some climates)
  • Leaves: Deeply lobed or divided, bright green, arranged alternately on the stem
  • Stem: Single, upright stem with smooth texture
  • Flower: Wide variety of shapes (daisy-like, pompom, spider, etc.), colors (white, yellow, red, pink, purple, bicolor, etc.)
  • Lifespan: Perennial (may be treated as annual depending on climate)
  • USDA Zones: 4-8 (can be grown as annuals elsewhere)
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic, can cause irritation if ingested (keep away from pets and children)
  • Symbolism: Varies by culture: longevity, resilience, nobility (Asia), grief, mourning (some regions), joy, happiness (other regions)
  • Water: Moderate watering, well-drained soil is crucial to avoid root rot
  • Soil: Prefers fertile, well-draining soil with good sun exposure (6-8 hours daily)

Varieties of Chrysanthemum

VarietyFlower Color
Single ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple
Korean Single ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, pink, purple
Decorative ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, bicolor
Incurved ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple
Reflexed ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple
Pompom ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple
Anemone ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, pink, purple
Spider ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple
Button ChrysanthemumWhite, yellow, pink
Spoon ChrysanthemumWhite, pink, red, yellow, purple, orange
Quill ChrysanthemumVarious colors, often pastel shades
Cushion ChrysanthemumWhite, pink, red, yellow, orange, purple

Cultivation of Chrysanthemum

  • Planting: Plant in well-drained soil in a location that receives full sun to partial shade. They prefer cool temperatures.
  • Spacing: Space chrysanthemums 18 to 24 inches apart to allow for proper air circulation and growth.
  • Planting Time: Plant in spring after the last frost for best results. In warmer climates, planting can also occur in autumn.
  • Watering: Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Water chrysanthemums regularly, especially during dry periods. Water at the base of the plant in the morning to allow leaves to dry by evening.
  • Fertilizing: Fertilize every 2-4 weeks during the growing season (spring to autumn). Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer (e.g., 20-20-20) for general feeding. Supplement with a bloom booster high in potassium for better flowering.
  • Pinching: Pinch back the growing tips when plants are 6-8 inches tall to encourage bushier growth. Repeat pinching every 2-3 weeks until mid-summer to promote more blooms.
  • Deadheading: Remove spent blooms to encourage more flowers and prevent the plant from going to seed. Cut the stem back to a leaf node or the base.
  • Staking: Tall varieties may need staking to support the weight of the blooms. Use bamboo stakes or other supports and tie the stems loosely to the stakes.
  • Pruning: Thin out overcrowded plants to improve air circulation. Trim back in late winter or early spring.
  • Overwintering: In colder regions, chrysanthemums may need to be overwintered indoors or protected with mulch. In warmer regions, they can be left in the ground and will return the following year.
  • Mulching: Apply a light layer of mulch around the base to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Pests and Diseases: Monitor common pests like aphids and spider mites, and diseases like powdery mildew. Control insects with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or appropriate insecticides. Prevent with proper spacing, watering, and air circulation.
  • Potted Plants: Ensure pots have good drainage and use a well-draining potting mix.
  • Early Growth: For bushier plants with more blooms, pinch back the growing tips of young chrysanthemums when they reach 4-6 inches tall. This encourages branching.



  • Take cuttings from healthy plants in spring or early summer.
  • Root in a mixture of sand and peat, keeping moist until roots develop.


  • Divide mature plants every 2-3 years in spring or early autumn.
  • Carefully separate the root clumps and replant immediately.


  • Sow seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date.
  • Lightly cover with soil and keep moist until germination (7-10 days).

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