How to Grow Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemum 'King's Pleasure' -- irregular curve flower type

Chrysanthemums bear single, semi-double, or double flowers heads often in dense clusters. Sometimes the clusters consist of tiny flowers, sometimes growers remove flower buds from clusters to increase the size of the remaining bloom or blooms.

Chrysanthemums are commonly divided into two groups, each with dozens and dozens of cultivars. The two groups are garden chrysanthemums, commonly called garden mums, and the second is exhibition chrysanthemums.

Garden mums are often sold in autumn in garden centers, flower shops, and grocery stores. They have a bushy, branched habit and bear clusters of flowers in a wide variety of colors. Some are upright growing and others look like a rounded cushion or mound. Both bloom over a long period from late summer into mid or late autumn.

Chrysanthemum is a genus of about 20 species of upright, bushy annuals and herbaceous perennials. Botanists attribute most chrysanthemum species to the genus Dendranthema.

Chrysanthemum, anemone flower form
Chrysanthemum, anemone flower form

Exhibition chrysanthemums are often categorized according to their flowerhead form. Exhibitors further classify exhibition chrysanthemums by their flowering season–early, midseason, or late, and by whether the plant has been disbudded or not. Disbudding is the removal of some flower buds which allows the remaining buds to grow large flowers.

Chrysanthemums are the standard for late summer and fall garden color. Blooms can be white to pale pink, rose, burgundy, red, golden brown, gold, yellow, and cream. Flower shapes range from button-like heads to incurve, reflex, decorative, pom-pon, anemone, spoon, quill, spider, and brush shapes. Flowers range in size from 1 inch (2.5cm) to 12 inches (30cm) across.

Chrysanthemum plants range in size from 12 inches (30cm) tall to more than 5 feet (1.5cm) tall. Chrysanthemums have lobed, often hairy leaves.

Garden mum
Garden mum–fall-blooming Chrysanthemum

Get to know Chrysanthemums

  • Plant type: Hardy perennial treated as an annual
  • Growing Zones and range: All zones
  • Hardiness: Plants commonly die back in winter but there are cultivars for far northern gardens
  • Height and width: 6 inches (15cm) to 5 feet (1.5m) tall; 8 to 36 inches (20-91cm) wide; only a few cultivars grow to 5 feet tall
  • Foliage and form: Plants have stout stems and lobed, hairy leaves up to 3 inches long.
  • Flowers: Flower range from 1 to 12 inches (2.5-30cm) across; from button-like heads to pom-pon and spider-like blooms
  • Flower colors: Almost all colors except blue; pink, red, bronze, orange, yellow, cream, white
  • Bloom time: Fall; can bloom year-round in warm-weather regions
  • Uses: Mixed border or cut flower garden; mass in groups
  • Common name: Chrysanthemum, garden mum
  • Botanical name: Chrysanthemum x morifolium
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Origin: Annual species are native to the Mediterranean region; perennials are native to North and Central Russia, China, and Japan.
Chrysanthemum 'King George' reflex flower form
Chrysanthemum ‘King George’ reflex flower form

Types of Chrysanthemum flowers

  • Chrysanthemum flowers come in a variety of forms: single, anemone, pompon, incurved, reflexed, spider, decorative, and spoon.
  • Chrysanthemum flowers are made up of two parts: the center of the flower, or the disk, and the petal-like parts, called rays.
  • Single flowers are daisylike and have up to five rows or rays surrounding a flat disk.
  • Anemone flowers resemble the single flower, except that the disk is hemispherical or tufted.
  • Pompons have rays that curve inward to form a globular flower head and usually hide the disk.
  • Incurved flowers have broad rays that curve inward and overlap to form a globular hear; the disk is hidden.
  • Reflexed flowers have rays that curve outward and form a flatter flower head than the pompon.
  • Spoon flowers have rays with spoon-shaped tips.

Where to plant Chrysanthemums

  • Grow chrysanthemums in full sun to light shade.
  • Plant chrysanthemums in humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Chrysanthemums prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5.

Chrysanthemum uses and companions

  • Use Chrysanthemum coccineum in informal plantings and cottage gardens.
  • Use Chrysanthemum nipponicum in beds and borders; use it in informal plantings and seashore gardens.
  • Use Chrysanthemum weyrichii as edging and in autumn gardens.
  • Use Chrysanthemum rubellum in informal and cottage gardens. Combines well with blue and purple flowers.
  • Use Chrysanthemum superbum in mass plantings in informal borders, as edging or middle-of-border plant; use as a cut flower.
  • Good garden companions for Chrysanthemums include Hemerocallis, Monarda, Nepeta, Physostegia, Sedum spectabile, Solidago.
Chrysanthemum 'Heather James', regular incurve flower form
Chrysanthemum ‘Heather James’, regular incurve flower form

When to plant Chrysanthemums

  • Set chrysanthemums in the garden in spring or fall. The best selection of new starts is available in autumn.
  • Start chrysanthemum indoors in spring about six weeks before the last frost.
  • Sow seeds outdoors or set out transplants in early spring, in fall in mild-winter climates.
Chrysanthemum, semi-double flower form
Chrysanthemum, semi-double flower form

Planting and spacing Chrysanthemums

  • Sow seeds indoors in six-pack or pots of sterile seed starting mix at 60° to 70°F (15.6°-21°C); in Zones 9-11, sow seeds in late fall. Start seeds in bright sunlight or under fluorescent light.
  • Transplant seedlings to the garden when they are 6 inches (15cm) tall when they have at least four to six leaves.
  • Sow seed outdoors in spring or summer; sow seed 1/8 inch deep.
  • Space chrysanthemums 18 to 36 inches (45-91cm) apart
Chrysanthemum, decorative flower form
Chrysanthemum, decorative flower form

How to water and feed Chrysanthemums

  • Chrysanthemums do best if the soil is kept evenly moist.
  • Fertilize chrysanthemums with an all-purpose fertilizer every six weeks or so through the growing season.
  • Boost blossoms with high phosphorus and potassium fertilizer such as 5-10-10.
 Chrysanthemum, spider form flower
Chrysanthemum, spider form flower

Chrysanthemum care

  • Mulch in summer to conserve soil moisture and keep the shallow roots moist.
  • Mulch around chrysanthemums in winter to protect shallow roots. Very cold winters can kill roots, especially in Zones 4-6.
  • Stake tall varieties; use peony hoops to tie them to wooden stakes.
  • Cut back foliage in spring to encourage new growth.
  • Pinch the stems once or twice in early summer to promote compact growth.
  • For larger flowers, disbud (remove side buds near a central bud) for larger flowers; disbud before buds are 1/4 inch wide.
  • Protect chrysanthemums in winter by mulching around plants with chopped leaves; pull back mulch in spring after the last hard frost so that new shoots can emerge.
Chrysanthemum 'St. Tropez
Chrysanthemum ‘St. Tropez’, intermediate incurve flower form

Growing Chrysanthemums as a houseplant

  • Chrysanthemums for the house are commonly purchased when they are already in bud or bloom; it is difficult to force a chrysanthemum into bloom indoors.
  • Chrysanthemums produce foliage when days are more than 14.5 hours long; they bloom when days are less than 14.5 hours long.
  • Place potted Chrysanthemums indoors with average temperature, bright light, and high humidity.
  • The potting medium should be rich; keep it evenly moist at all times.
  • Chrysanthemums in bloom do not require fertilizer.
  • After an indoor chrysanthemum has finished blooming it can be discarded or transplanted into the garden. Chrysanthemums transplanted to the garden in spring are more likely to survive.

Chrysanthemum pests and diseases

  • Chrysanthemums are commonly problem-free unless the soil or weather is wet. Rainy weather can spoil blooms.
  • Aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, leaf miners, and spider mites may attack chrysanthemums. Spray with insecticidal soap.
  • Chrysanthemums can develop rust, leaf spot, root, and stem rot, powdery mildew, botrytis blight, and wilt.

Chrysanthemum propagation

  • Chrysanthemum seeds germinate in 8 to 20 days at 68°F (20°C).
  • Divide established chrysanthemums in spring when new growth begins. Dig up crowded clumps and gently separate the stems with roots attached. Replant them immediately; plants will reflower in the same year.
  • Tip cuttings take in spring will root quickly and may bloom during the same season.
Chrysanthemum, pompon flower form
Chrysanthemum, pompon flower form

Chrysanthemum varieties

  • There are hundreds of cultivars of chrysanthemums.
  • Chrysanthemum x morifolium, the florist’s chrysanthemum, was formerly known as Dendranthema x grandiflorum and is sometimes labeled Chrysanthemum x grandiflorum. This is the garden mum or hardy fall mum, also simply called mum. It varies in hight from 12 to 24 inches when sold as a houseplant
Tricolor chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum carinatum
Tricolor chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum carinatum

Species and other Chrysanthemums

  • Chrysanthemum arcticum, artic daisy. Extremely cold tolerant to -50°F (-46°C); does not thrive in heat; single, yellow-centered white daisies; flowers turn pinkish with age.
  • C. carinatum, tricolor chrysanthemum or painted daisy, formerly C. tricolor, is a cool-weather annual with fernlike leaves; it bears 1- to 2-inch pale yellow flowers with golden eyes.
  • C. coronarium, crown daisy, garland chrysanthemum, cool-weather annual bears yellow singe or double flowers to 2 inches (5cm) across
  • C. coccineum, now Tanacetum coccineum, commonly called painted daisy or pyrethrum; hardy to -30°F (-34°C); long-stemmed daisies come pink shades, red and white; bushy plant.
  • C. frutescens, now Argyranthemum frutescens, commonly called Marguerite daisy.
  • C. leucanthemum, now Leucanthemum vulgare, commonly called oxeye daisy.
  • C. maximum, now Leucanthemum x superbum, commonly called Shasta daisy.
  • C. morifolium, this is the familiar florists’ chrysanthemum known as “mums”; reds, golds, orange, bronzes; hardy to -10°F (-23°C); an autum bloomer; many flower forms such as basic daisy to pompon to shaggy to quilled; some are low growing, some taller.
  • C. multicaule, mini-marguerites. Small well-branced annuas grow to 12 inches tall.
  • C. nipponicum, now Nipponanthemum nipponicum, commonly called Nippon daisy.
  • C. pacificum, now Ajania pacifica, commonly called gold and silver chrysanthemum; low growing to 12 inches tall; hardy to -20°F (-29°C).
  • C. paludosum, now Leucanthemum paludosum, commonly called creeping daisy or miniature marguerite.
  • C. parthenium, now Tanacetum parthenium, commonly called feverfew; feathery bright green leaves; large clusters of sing white daisies less than an inch across.
  • C. ptarmiciflorum, sliver lace (one of several plants known as dusty miller). Grow to 8 inches tall with finely cut foliage.
  • C. x superbum, now Leucanthemum x superbum, commonly called Shasta daisy; summer-flowering perennial; hardy to -20°F (-29°C); several cultivars; 3- to 4-inch flowers with big yellow centers.
  • C. weyrichii, now Dendranthema weyrichii; rhizome spreading plant; single daisies to 2 inches across.

Chrysanthemum coccineum (Tanacetum coccineum) — Painted Daisy, Pyrethrum

Chrysanthemum coccineum is the first daisy-type flower to bloom in summer. The painted daisy makes a bold statement with its 3-inch, yellow-centered, pink, rose, magenta, red, or, occasionally, white flowers. Blossoms appear in June and early July on branched stems above clumps of feathery dark green leaves that resemble carrot leaves. This plant is the source of the natural insecticide pyrethrum.

  • Size: 1 to 2 feet tall; 1 foot wide.
  • Light: Full sun.
  • Soil and moisture: Average, well-drained, moist soil; water during drought.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant bare-root or container-grown plants in spring, spacing 1 foot apart. Divides easily in spring or late summer.
  • Special care: Deadhead to prolong bloom. Often needs staking with ring support.
  • Pests and diseases: Mildew and rust are occasionally troublesome.
  • Climate: Zones 3-7; performs well where cool and poorly where hot.
  • Cultivars: ‘James Kelway,’ deep scarlet; ‘Robinson’s Hybrids,’ mixed colors, large flowers. ‘Roseum,’ rose-pink; ‘Giant Hybrids,’ mixed pinks and magenta, white singles and doubles, 1 to 2 feet tall; ‘Atrosanguineum,’ large single, dark red; ‘Duro,’ very large magenta, 2 ½ feet tall; ‘Sensation,’ double, red; ‘Evenglow,’ salmon-red.
  • Garden use: Pretty plants for informal plantings and cottage gardens.

Chrysanthemum nipponicum — (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) Nippon Daisy, Montauk Daisy

Nippon daisy is a shrubby perennial that blooms from mid-September until the first hard freeze. White 3-inch, daisy-type flowers with greenish-yellow centers bloom on woody stems with succulent, toothed, grey-green leaves. Plants form large, attractive mounds.

  • Size: 2 to 4 feet tall and wide.
  • Light: Full sun.
  • Soil and moisture: Sandy to fertile soil; even moisture best, but tolerates drought.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant dormant roots or container-grown plants in spring, spacing 2 to 3 feet apart. Take cuttings in early summer, cannot be divided easily.
  • Special care: Cut back woody stems in late winter to keep the plant compact. Pinch stems every few weeks until midsummer to encourage dense branching and profuse bloom. Dig up and discard overly woody plants and replace them with rooted cuttings.
  • Pests and diseases: Usually pest free.
  • Climate: Zones 5-8; responds well to seashore conditions.
  • Cultivars: Only species are available.
  • Garden use: Excellent plant for bringing late color to beds and borders; use in informal plantings and seashore gardens. Because lower foliage often drops by the bloom time, plant in midground to conceal the bases of stems.

Chrysanthemum parthenium (Tanacetum partbenium) — Feverfew matricaria

Chrysanthemum parthenium is a garden herb with charming flowers and pretty foliage. Flowers bloom from midsummer to fall. The daisy-like flowers have prominent golden centers ringed with small, bright white petals. Flower form tight, flat clusters atop the branched plants. The showiest flowers are double forms with numerous snowy petals and tiny gold centers. Feverfew is strongly scented with a pungent, peppery aroma. The foliage creates clumps of bright green, deeply divided leaves to offset the dainty flowers.

  • Size: 2 to 3 feet tall; half as wide.
  • Light: Full sun.
  • Soil and moisture: Average to sandy, well-drained soil; plentiful moisture.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant container-grown plants in spring, spacing 1 foot apart, or sow seeds in spring or fall. Divide annually or take cuttings in spring to perpetuate this short-lived perennial.
  • Special care: Pinch in mid-spring to induce bushiness, or may need staking. Individual plants are short-lived but self-sows readily; may become weedy in neat gardens.
  • Pest and diseases: Aromatic foliage is pest resistant.
  • Climate: Zones 4-8; winter mulch in Zones 4-6.
  • Cultivars: C. p. Aureum (golden feather), golden evergreen foliage, 1-foot tall, white daisies; ‘Golden Ball,’ yellow, ball-like flowers; ‘Silver Ball,’ double white flowers with golden centers; ‘White Stars,’ white buttons; ‘White Wonder’ (‘Ultra Double White’), double daisies; ‘Snowball,’ double 8 to 10 inches tall.
  • Garden use: Best in informal and cottage gardens because of the tendency to self-sow and pop up here and there. Excellent in herb or cut-flower garden; dries well.

Chrysanthemum weyrichii (Dendranthema weyrichii)

Chrysanthemum weyrichii is a late bloomer–September and October. The 2-inch-wide, daisy-like, white or pink flowers bloom through light frosts. The leaves are deep green, lobed, thick, and fleshy; the stems are purple. This plant makes a good ground cover.

  • Size: 8 inches to 1 foot tall; wide spreading by stolons.
  • Light: Full sun.
  • Soil and moisture: Average to sandy, well-drained soil; moderate moisture.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant bare-root or container-grown plants in spring or fall, spacing 1 foot apart. Divide in spring every three or four years.
  • Special cares: Spreads by stolons, but is not invasive. Do not overwater
  • Pest and diseases: Root rot in wet or damp sites.
  • Cultivars and similar species: ‘White Bomb,’ 10 inches to 1 foot tall, short-stemmed creamy white flowers age to pale rose. ’Pink Bomb,’ pale mauve-pink flowers, 1 foot tall, G. pacificum lobed green leaves with silver edge and undersides, very late buttonlike gold flowers, spreads rapidly to make an excellent 2-foot-tall ground cover noted for its striking foliage, Zones 6-9.
  • Garden use: Works well as edging for paths or well-drained borders or to create lovely low mounds in a rock garden.

Chrysanthemum x morifolium (Dendranthema grandiflorum) — Chrysanthemum, garden mum

Garden mum Chrysanthemum x morifolium is a late-blooming, long-blooming plant, a mainstay of many fall gardens. Blossoms can withstand a light frost. There are several flower types including tight buttons, single daisies, doubles, and pompons. Colors include rust-red and copper-orange as well as bright yellow, gold, lavender-pink, and white. Shapes range from low mounds to tall, loose types, but the garden favorites are cushion mums, which form a neat mound less than 2 feet tall. Some gardeners plant potted blooming mums in fall and treat them as annuals, but the display is softer and more natural when mums grow as perennials.

  • Size: 8 inches to 3 feet tall and wide.
  • Light: Full Sun.
  • Soil and moisture: Fertile, humus-rich, moist, well-drained, acidic
  • Planting and propagation: Plant bare-root or small container-grown plants in spring spacing 1 foot apart. Divide every two or three years in spring to keep vigorous.
  • Special care: Fertilize monthly during summer. Pinch stern tips every two weeks from spring through midsummer (July 15 in the North, August 1 to 15 in the South) to promote bushiness and delay bloom until fall. Mulch in summer to keep the soil cool and moist. Mulch loosely in winter after soil freezes to prevent alternative freezing and thawing. Cut back old stems in early spring.
  • Pest and diseases: Root rot in wet sites. Aphids and spider mites are often serious.
  • Climate: Zones 5-9.
  • Cultivars: Numerous cultivars are available. Choose cold-hardy mums, not tender florist types, as garden perennials. (Hardy types produce an overwintering rosette or foliage). In northern areas, select early-blooming types, in southern areas, select late-blooming types.
  • Garden use: Arrange mums in drift in the foreground or middle or formal and informal beds and borders.

Chrysanthemum x rubellum (Dendranthema x rubella) — Hybrid Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum x rubellum is a cold-hard, daisy-type chrysanthemum. This hybrid was discovered in 1929; its exact parentage is unknown. The hybrid chrysanthemum is a compact plant that forms loose mounds of deeply lobed, tooth-edged leaves with hairy undersides. Lightly fragrant, bright pink or yellow daisies with raised yellow centers bloom from midsummer into fall.

  • Size: 1 to 3 feet tall; to 3 feet wide.
  • Light: Full sun in the North; light shade in the hot areas.
  • Soil and moisture: Average, well-drained soil, moderate moisture.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant container-grown plants in spring, spacing 3 feet apart. Divide in springs every four or five years.
  • Special care: Spreads rapidly in light soil; avoid overfertilizing. Pinch in early summer to promote compactness and later blooming. Shear after summer flush of blossoms wanes to promote fall bloom.
  • Pest and diseases: Usually trouble-free.
  • Climate: Zone 4-9.
  • Cultivars: ‘Clara Curtis,’ the usual form sold bright pink with yellow centers, 2 feet tall; ‘Mary Stoker,’ straw-yellow turning buttery apricot with yellow centers, a bit leggy.
  • Garden use: Easy-care perennial for a long season of color in informal borders and cottage gardens. Combines well with blue and purple flowers.

Chrysanthemum x superbum (C. maximun and leucanthemum x superbum) — Shasta daisy

The Shasta daisy is a perennial noted for its floriferous nature. Blossoms appear in June and July and continue into fall if plants are deadheaded. The 2-to 3-inch, white, yellow-centered flowers may be single, double, or semidouble and make excellent cut flowers. The dark green leaves are coarsely toothed, not lobed like other chrysanthemums. The leaves are lager near the ground; they form a dense clump beneath the sparsely foliage flowering stems; a rosette of evergreen basal leaves overwinters. Shasta daisy is a hybrid of two European daisies created by the American plantsman Luther Burbank during the late 19th century. He sought to create a large-flowered daisy with long, strong stems perfect for cutting.

  • Size: 6 inches to 3 feet tall; 1 ½ feet wide.
  • Light: Full sun in most areas; part shade where summers are hot and dry. Doubles do best in part shade.
  • Soil and moisture: Deep, fertile, well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil; moderate moisture.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant container-grown plants in spring, spacing 2 feet apart. Divide every other year in early spring.
  • Special care: Deadhead regularly or cut back after the first flush to promote reblooming. Winter mulch in the North. Stake tall cultivars with rings. Short-lived, especially in wet winter soil.
  • Pests and diseases: Aphids and verticillium wilt sometimes troublesome.
  • Climate: Zones 4-9.
  • Cultivars and similar species: Singles; ‘Alaska,’ large white, 20 inches tall; ‘Snow Lady,’ 2 ½-inch pure-white early, blossoms 6 to 8 inches tall; ‘Stars Burst,’ 6-inch early blossoms, 3 feet tall; ‘Little Princess,’ large flowers, compact to 1 foot tall; ‘Snowcap,’ pure white, 10 inches to 1 foot tall; ‘Polaris,’ white, 3 feet tall. Doubles; ‘Aglaya,’ frilly fully double, 2 ½ feet tall; ‘Marconi,’ fully double, 4-inch early blooms, 3 feet tall; ‘Thomas Killen,’ large flowers with double row of petals, crested gold centers, sturdy, to 2 ½ feet tall; ‘Cobham Gold,’ double row of creamy yellow petals with gold centers, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ feet tall.
  • Garden use: Plant in masses in the formal border, as edging or middle-of-border plant, depending on height. Scatter about a cottage garden or informal planting. For cut flowers choose tall types.

Related Articles:

Ornamental onion Allium

How to Grow Allium

How to Grow Tulips — Tulipa