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Visit the Thanksgiving Gardens and see the fabulous mum display in the Italian Gardens. The Gardens are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Chrysanthemums are one of the most popular perennial flowers in the world and are the showiest of the fall perennials. As the leaves change, the colors burst from these flowers and decorate our individual gardens.

These flowers, commonly called "mums," have been cultivated for centuries. They are available in almost every color except blue and are widely available in local garden centers.

Mums were first cultivated in China as flowering herbs in the 15th Century B.C. where they believed the plant to have the power of life. Legend says boiled roots were headache remedies and brewed leaves were a festive drink.

Japan imported mums in the 8th century A.D. The Japanese loved this flower and they adopted one as the Emperor’s crest and official seal. Their Imperial Order of the Chrysanthemum is the highest Order of Chivalry and their National Chrysanthemum Day is their Festival of Happiness.

Mums made it to the Western world during the 17th Century. In 1753 Karl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist, combined the Greek words chrysos, meaning gold with anthemon, meaning flower giving it the name that it is now known by. Mums came to the United States during colonial times, and they are so popular that they are now the undisputed "Queen of the Fall Flowers."

Chrysanthemums are short day plants meaning they bloom only when the nights are long enough. During the summer, the days are long, nights are short, and chrysanthemums grow vegetatively. As the night length increases in late summer and early fall, mums initiate flower bud formation in August and September.

The types are cut flower mums, pot mums and garden mums. Only garden mums are satisfactory in the garden. Greenhouse growers produce cut flower and pot mums year round. They artificially shorten or lengthen the night by covering the plants with black cloth or giving them artificial light to induce them to bloom out of season.

Cut flower mums and pot mums are not suitable for gardens because they get tall and leggy. When grown as fall perennials, they are floppy and unattractive and often bloom too late for good garden color.

Garden mums are bred and selected for outdoor growing. The best garden mums are short, bushy plants that grow 12-18 inches tall and cover themselves with clusters of small 1-inch to 1½-inch flowers.

Chrysanthemums grow well in any good garden soil. They do need well-drained soil because they have shallow root system. Plants in poorly drained soils develop root diseases and winter kill if water stays around the base.

If your soil is not satisfactory, add organic matter and spade the soil 8-12 inches deep before planting. Add fertilizer when necessary to enhance the growth. Excessive fertilizer causes elongated leggy growth and fewer flowers.

Mums grow best when they receive full sun. Plants in shade grow taller, have weaker stems and smaller flowers, and bloom later in the fall. Avoid planting where they compete with trees for light and water.

Some gardeners use mums as temporary landscape color. When the flowers fade, they remove the plants and replace them with cool-season bedding plants. By planting adapted varieties, chrysanthemums make an excellent perennial to beautify the fall garden for many years.

When purchasing garden mums, select plants with that are just starting to bloom. Fully open plants will not be attractive as long. Avoid plants with flowers that have already begun to fade or those that have broken branches and yellow foliage. Let the flowers remain until they finish blooming or the weather gets so cold they freeze. Then cut the dead foliage down to about two inches high.

Dig and divide mum plants each spring. When you see the new shoots, dig up the whole clump, divide it into two to four sections and replant the clumps where you want more plants. Discard the brown, woody middle of the plant. Dividing mums makes them strong and vigorous and keeps them under control.

For more information on types of mums, their classification and growing needs contact the National Chrysanthemum Society at

Several diseases and insects attack mums. Prevent them by following these recommendations:

Buy plants that are free of diseases and insects.

Plant in a sunny location.

Allow plenty of air circulation by avoiding over crowding.

Keep your garden free of weeds and disease-infested plants.

Common pests are aphids, two spotted mites, and powdery mildew. Control these with an approved pesticide if needed.

Mums maintain a bushy compact plant form if pinched or pruned regularly. Although newer cultivars do not require pinching, the traditional method has been to pinch out the tip to induce branching and produce stockier plants.

Repeat pinching on side branches when they are 6" long. Continue pinching until mid-June for early flowering varieties, late June for September flowering varieties, and early July for October varieties. Complete pinching by July 4 to assure flowering prior to frost. Most mum flowers are resistant to frost.

Lack of flowering is occasionally a problem with mums. Possible causes include poorly adapted cultivar selections and insufficient sun, fertilizer, or water. Late pinching, root competition from trees and shrubs and insect, or disease injury also prevent flowering.

Unusually hot weather (especially nights) in August or unusually cold weather in late August and September also prevents buds from forming.

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