(Spieces: Chrysanthemum - Family: Compositae/Asteraceae)
Chrysanthemum and its origins
Chrysanthemum species are ancient plants that were first cultivated in China, as early as 15th century BC, and were considered to be a potent herb.
The Swedish botanist and taxonomist Linnaeus named the flower, when it was introduced to Europe in the 17th century, from the Greek 'chrysous', meaning golden - the colour of the original flower - and anthemon, meaning flower.
The small, daisy-like yellow flowers could not be a greater contrast to the vast range of showy Chrysanthemum cultivars available today - in a wide range of colours that brighten the autumn garden considerably.
Seasonality: Chrysanthemum in flower
Popularly known as Chrysanths and mums, Chrysanthemums have been hybridised in Europe, Japan and the US and are popular garden flowers for borders and containers, as well as reliable flowering houseplants.
The flower shapes vary tremendously, from neat button and perfect pompon shapes to daisy heads and what resemble big, shaggy mops or chic Sixties hats. Colours range from pink, yellow and white to rich autumn shades of rusts, bronzes and deep garnet reds.
The two basic outdoor types are the florist Chrysanthemums - mostly plants grown for their large blooms, rather than the plant as a whole, and often entered at shows - and hardier garden Chrysanthemums that produce an abundance of small blooms. Unlike fussier florist Chrysanthemums, these need little or no staking and are more tolerant of wind and rain.
The 'charm' varieties make wonderful autumn container plants: they can be so abundantly covered in blooms that they resemble a solid cushion of bright colour.
How to plant:
Plant out rooted cuttings in early summer, not too deeply, or buy Chrysanthemums as young plants in spring or autumn. Water during dry spells and feed to encourage swelling of buds.
Florist Chrysanthemums, grown for their blooms, will need staking at planting time, and the rootstocks stored over winter. Hardy garden Chrysanthemums can be cut back after flowering and covered with a thick mulch as protection over winter.
The growing point of all plants should be pinched out when the plants are approx 20cm tall, to encourage side shoots and a fuller display.
Propagation of Chrysanthemum
Hardy Chrysanthemum perennials can be divided after flowering, either in autumn or early spring. Florists' chrysanthemums can be propagated from basal softwood cuttings in spring, rooted at 10-15oC and then grown in 7.5cm pots.
Did you know:
The Chrysanthemum has huge significance in China and Japan. Festivals celebrating the flower are held annually. The Chinese city of Chu-Hsien is named ‘Chrysanthemum City' and the flower is one of the 'Four Gentlemen of China', along with orchid, bamboo and plum blossom, of Chinese art's bird-and-flower paintings. Many poems in China feature the Chrysanthemum.
The flowers are still used to make a restorative tea, and the leaves steamed or boiled and eaten as greens in Chinese cuisine.
In Japan, the Chrysanthemum Throne is the name given to the position of Japanese emperor; the flower is both his crest and official seal. Japan has a national Chrysanthemum day which is charmingly named The Festival of Happiness.