MUM'S THE WORD
Chrysanthemums can last all year in South Texas
August 30, 2007
BY JEAN WOFFORD - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
EDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON

When I started researching this article about chrysanthemums, I was surprised to find out the history of this plant that I had always thought of as being, for want of a better word, humble.

I knew there were different kinds, but the history is astounding.

SCIENTIFIC NAME

Chrysanthemums, which I will call by their more common name of "mums" in this article, are one of the very few flowering plants that are classified under the scientific name that we know them by. I found this to be an interesting fact since most plants have a botanical name that is often not the common name.

The botanical name is usually in Greek or Latin.

NOT-SO-HUMBLE HISTORY


"Emperial" flower

According to my research, mums were introduced into Japan around the 10th century. The Emperor adopted it as his imperial seal of Japan. At this time it was named Ju Xian, which literally means chrysanthemum.

Significant color origins

The mum is also said to have been favored by a famous Chinese poet. In China, white mums are symbolic of lamentation; therefore, they are widely used at funerals. In some other countries, they mean honesty. The white mum is the flower of a society of engineers, architects and Scientists. It is also the chosen flower for the American Musician Fraternity.

Mums were finally brought to Europe in the 17th century. The plant was named chrysanthemum, a Greek word meaning "golden flower."

USED AS INSECTICIDE

Mums are also used in the production of a popular insecticide, pyrethrum. The seeds are ground and the flowers are pulverized and mixed with other natural ingredients to make this insecticide. It is widely used by organic gardeners.

PERENNIAL

We are in Zone 9 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map, and mums are considered to be herbaceous perennials in this zone. I have found this to be true with mums I have either bought or have been given. After I enjoy them and they start fading, I cut them back to about 2 or 3 inches from the soil line. I then empty the pot, separate the roots and if there is more than one plant, separate them and plant in a sunny location. I have had great success doing this.

I read there are two kinds of mums: the hardy mum, which is what I have used for my home garden; and the florist mum, which is the kind with a longer stem and found in flower shops and used for decoration.

VARIETIES

Mums come in a wide selection of colors, from the brightest white to a very dark purple. There isn't a true blue one yet, but I just imagine there is someone somewhere working toward this. Mums also come in a variety of growth patterns. I have sprawling ones, ones that only get about 10 inches tall and some that grow very bushy.

They also come in a variety of shapes. We are all familiar with the spider mum, which is large and loosely formed, the popular football mum, some that look like daisies and some that look like little pom-poms. The most popular one is considered decorative and the petals are so tightly formed you often cannot see the middle.

NEED FULL SUN


Mums need full sun to bloom well. They will grow and have nice, lush growth, but will not bloom very much if in the shade.

Most mums are photoperiodic, which means they bloom in response to shorter days. Therefore, they usually bloom in the fall. But I have mums that put out buds and bloom almost all year unless we have a freeze. But when the soil warms up, they return.

READY TO PLANT

Now that you have all this information, it is time to prepare the bed, and it is always best if this is done before even shopping for your plants. Work up the soil and add some well-composted humus, manure, insecticide granules and some slow-release fertilizer.

Remember, the insecticide granules are for any soil insects that may eat the new mums. Smooth over the planting area and water in.

NOW, LETíS GO SHOPPING FOR MUMS.


I find very little helpful information on the label of any mums that I have bought. So, I just buy the plants I like. If there are more than one in the pot, when you are ready to plant, just empty the pot very carefully. Then the plants can be separated and planted. Mums are very hardy and so rewarding. I certainly don't handle them with kid gloves. If I break off a little stem, I just stick it into the prepared bed and more often than not, I am rewarded with a new mum.

Remember to space the mums at least 18-24 inches apart, possibly up to 30-36 inches for vigorous varieties. They really do grow better if they have some room for air circulation, as most plants do. Water in the mums after planting and be prepared to enjoy these plants for years to come.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or
vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

EXTRAS
Tips for Growing Mums

Root cuttings after they bloom in early spring.
Plant in spring from cuttings or in fall from divisions.
Divide in late fall or very early spring every three years.
Water freely in dry weather.
After established, feed once a month.
Chrysanthemums come in many colors.

These cultivars ranked by color are recommended by David Rodriquez, Bexar County Extension Agent - Horticulture.
COLORS OF MUMS

WHITE: Encore, Illusion, Nicole and Tolima

YELLOW: Donna, Goldmine, Jessica and Target 

PINK: Debonair, Naomi, Stardom and Sundoro

PURPLE: Barbara Lavender, Ursula Lavender, Venice Purple, Amor Dark Pink and Beth Purple

BRONZE: Ginger, Grace, Sandy and Triumph

RED: Bravo, Minngopher and Remarkable