Queen of fall flowers keeps it going into December

Fall flowers

“If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow Chrysanthemums.”

— Unknown Chinese philosopher

Just look at the wonderful surprise I saw at the Houston area Champions Golf Club. These lovely mums are a reminder of how hardy and long-lasting garden mums can be. And as you can see, they are just beautiful! I rounded the corner after attending a baby shower inside and on my way back to the car, there they were — a huge mass planting brightening everyone’s day.

Hardy garden mums, short for chrysanthemums (kris-AN-theh-mum) have had several name changes in the last 10 years or so. You may now also find them listed under the category Dendranthema. But most of us just call them mums. And they have such a long history of use before becoming a required part of all football homecoming corsages.

The National Chrysanthemum Society has wonderful and extremely detailed information on the mum. For example, did you know that the mum was cultivated in China as a flowering herb and written about as early as the 15th century? It was grown as an herb and considered to have the power of life. The boiled roots were used as a headache remedy, the young sprouts and petals eaten in salads. The leaves were brewed for a festive drink. In the 8th century, the flower appeared in Japan where they loved it so much that a single flowered mum was the crest and official seal of the emperor.

We in the western world were introduced to the mum in the 17th century by the busy Swedish botanist Karl Linnaeus. He combined the Greek word “chrysos” (gold) with “anthemom” (flower) to come to our current word “chrysanthemum.” They are now the undisputed “Queen of Fall Flowers.”

Hardy garden mums are the perfect addition to any border beds or containers by the front door. They really can stretch the gardening season by blooming, as I just saw in Houston, all the way until and into December. Our first frost will probably be the end of the current blooms unless lightly covered. They are considered a perennial. Look for this wonderful addition to your fall planting in colors of pink, red and white. You can find some mums with tiny few inch tall blooms all the way to 3-foot tall varieties. That gives you so many options for adding to the front or back of a border.

The tiny options are not as easy to find, but Fine Gardening magazine recommends the Pacific chrysanthemum that is only 4-6 inches in height. They might just fight and win against weeds in your garden bed. The other tiny recommendations are Pink Ice, Sweet Peg and Chrysanthemum weytichii, which gets about 8 inches tall.

Some very outstanding looking medium-height mums to keep a lookout for are Penelope Please, Sheffield and Bronze Elegans. Great taller options are Cambodian Queen and Will’s Wonderful.

Crystanthemums are hardy from Zone 3 all the way down south to our Zones 8 and 9. They love organic well-drained soil like most plants and require at least a half a day of sun in our part of Texas.

Joette Reger is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. She can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”