Mum's the Word

Chrysanthemums: A fresh look at a fall favorite.

By Rebecca Sawyer-Fay

Photography by Rob Cardillo


Mums bring a splash of fall colorMaster's Tip: Taking Cuttings
Creating new plants from your favorite mums is easy, says Galen Goss, executive director of the National Chrysanthemum Society. Simply snip off a 4-inch stem (be sure it has leaves on it) and put it in a pot with a soilless medium, such as vermiculite. Keep it moist and outdoors, in a bright spot. After a couple of weeks, repot the cutting (which has sprouted roots) to a small container (foam coffee cups with drainage holes work well) filled with potting soil. Fertilize once a week. Two to three weeks later, transplant it into the garden, and keep fertilizing. You'll enjoy flowers that very autumn!

A Mum for Every Purpose

  • Use shorter cushion mums to carpet a slope. Foot-tall mounds of lush foliage make an attractive groundcover until late summer, when colorful flower heads steal the show.
  • Start a nursery bed where you can grow your own mums from cuttings. In late summer, transfer the ready-to-bloom plants into the garden, to take the place of tired-looking annuals.
  • When a killing frost is predicted, pot up your mums and bring them indoors to adorn the Thanksgiving table.
  • Plant taller varieties for use as cut flowers. After cutting, split the stem ends so they can take up water more efficiently.

5 More Mums You'll Love

  • To stop traffic: The spider mum 'Senkyo Kenshin' stands 3 1⁄2 feet tall. It blooms midseason, with about 27 striking, reddish-bronze blossoms per plant.
  • For brilliant color: 'Jessica' has joyful, bright yellow blossoms. This midseason decorative mum is from the Prophets Series.
  • Does double duty: An old favorite, 'French Vanilla' has 3 1⁄2- inch white flowers. Grow in a mixed border or cutting garden.
  • Takes the cold: 'Minnautumn' is an extremely cold-hardy—to Zone 3—decorative cushion mum. It's only 15 inches tall, with vivid orange-red flowers.
  • For the vase: 'Carrousel', a purple quill mum, is an elegant cut flower. Huge blossoms measure up to 4 inches across.