Chrysanthemums, November 2020 POM
Autumn is arguably the most beautiful time of year in Chico, and it’s hard to imagine autumn anywhere without thinking about chrysanthemums. Yup, that grocery store and hardware store Autumn Cliche. Who hasn’t given in to the impulse now and then and purchase a chrysanthemum from such places to plop onto the porch or in the garden as an autumn decoration? I know I’ve done it.
But really, chrysanthemums (happily still classified as Chrysanthemum botanically-speaking) are so much more than inexpensive, fluffy “color spots”. They are easy, low maintenance, durable perennial plants with a very distinguished history and pedigree. They’ve been cultivated for thousands of years and come in many, many flower shapes and colors. The colors range from white through yellow, orange, maroon, burgundy, green, and almost-red, with lots of variations and combinations. Flowers can be single daisy-like configurations, semi-double, or fully double, with sizes ranging from buttons to the oldey timey “football” mums (one of our favorites). Single and semi-double flowers will attract more pollinators as they allow easier access to nectar and pollen. You’ll definitely notice the difference.
Just give them full sun, good soil, and fairly regular water and you’ll have success. The only “trick” to getting a good autumn display is this: pinch the stem tips often to encourage bushiness and to delay flowering until autumn, when we want it. I let each stem grow three leaves then I cut off just below that third leaf. New stems will form and I repeat it again and again through Independence Day. Chrysanthemums are easy to propagate in late winter via division, or in mid-spring via stem cuttings. The photo shows just a few varieties in our accidental chrysanthemum “collection”.
Whether they are inexpensive grocery store types, or fancy expensive heirloom types, chrysanthemums deserve more appreciation, and yes, more space in our gardens. If you grow them or try them, let me know what you think.