What to Know About Planting and
Caring for Chrysanthemums

By: Laura Bullard Gardening guide, How to
Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum flowers pink flower group

Chrysanthemums (or mums) are small, low-lying shrubs that produce bright, show-stopping blooms in the late spring and early fall. While they are the official flower of Chicago, chrysanthemums are grown across the United States and thrive in hardiness zones 5–9.

Incredibly easy to grow, chrysanthemums are one of the most popular low-maintenance perennial plants. If properly planted and lightly attended to, your mums can bloom for years to come.

Because they differ so widely in shape and size, the National Chrysanthemum Society has categorized them into 13 distinct (but occasionally overlapping) classifications.

Types of Chrysanthemums

Irregular Incurve Mums

Irregular incurve mums are best known for their massive, six- to eight-inch blooms. Their florets curve inward, completely covering the center of the flower. How tight or loose the florets hug the center depends on the variety, but the blooms are (more or less) spherical.

Chrysanthemum
Closeup Chrysanthemums

Class 1 Irregular incurve mum

Reflex Mums

Reflex mums are also spherical. Often compared to bird plumage, the florets are downward-curving. Like incurved mums, the florets completely cover the center of the flower. The blooms are usually around four to six inches in diameter.

Class 2 Reflex mum

Regular Incurve Mums

Regular incurve mums are quite similar to irregular incurve mums, but the way their florets curve inward is much more uniform and tight. The four to six inch blooms are completely spherical.

Large red chrysanthemums on the autumn nature blurred background, selective focus

Class 3 Regular incurve mum

Decorative Mums

Decorative mums have both incurving and reflexing florets. The upper petals tend to curve upward and inward around the center and the lower petals tend to reflex downward. The blooms are typically at least five inches.

Flower Dome, Garden By The Bay, Singapore

Class 4 Decorative mum

Intermediate Incurve Mums

Intermediate incurve mums are the most popular classification. Their florets incurve upward, but they do not fully cover the center. Usually, the blooms are at least six inches in diameter.

Chrysanthemum yellow flower head side view isolated on black glossy background with realistic reflection

Class 5 Intermediate incurve mum

Pompon Mums

Pompon mums are spherical, but they do not have the long florets found in chrysanthemum classes 1–5. The short, cupped, tubular petals incurve upward or reflex downward, completely concealing the center of the bloom. The blooms tend to be only around one to four inches.

The true pom-poms of the flower world - White Disbud Chrysanthemum
Pumpkin and Gold Chrysanthemum Pom pom flowers full frame

Class 6 Pompon mum

Single and Semi-double Mums

Single and semi-double mums resemble daisies in that they have extraordinarily pronounced centers surrounded by one or two rows of florets. The petals don’t dramatically reflex or incurve—they shoot straight out of the center of the bloom in stunning rays. The blooms are always at least four inches.

Class 7 Semi-double mum

Anemone Mums

Anemone mums are often called cushion-shaped mums. Typically at least four inches, they are very similar to single and semi-double mums, but the center (or the “cushion”) is significantly more pronounced.

Chrysanthemum flowers pink flower group

Class 8 Anemone mum

Spoon Mums

Spoon mums are nearly identical to semi-double mums, but the tip of each ray floret looks like a tiny spoon. The blooms are always at least four inches.

Class 9 Spoon mum

Quill Mums

Quill mums have long, tubular florets. The six- to eight-inch blooms incurve slightly, completely covering the center of the bloom.

Class 10 Quill mum

Spider Mums

Spider mums are similar to quill mums (the florets are long and tubular), but each floret tends to end in a hook or a coil rather than a simple point. The florets also tend to be thinner, which makes the bloom look “coarse.” They tend to be at least six inches.

White Spider Mum
Close-up of blooming chrysanthemum flowers isolated on black backgroud.

Class 11 Spider mum

Brush or Thistle Mums

Brush or thistle mums actually look like paintbrushes—their long tubular florets growing perpendicular to their centers. Brush mum blooms are quite small. They typically don’t get larger than two inches.

open flower chrysanthemum pink color with blurred background

Class 10 Quill mum

Exotic Mums

Exotic mums (also known as unclassified mums) are, quite simply, mums that don’t fit into any of the above categories. Typically, they have the characteristics of at least two other categories. For example, they may have incurving, tubular florets that are also spooned.

Mum shot on black background. Selective focus on center of flower.
Purple flower Thistles. Macro scene with bokeh effect

When to Plant Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums need at least six weeks to get established before they encounter extreme heat or cold. Because of this, most gardeners plant their mums in the spring. If given enough time to properly take root, they should bloom by late summer or early fall.

If you plant them too early or late in the season (in the heat of summer or just before winter), they may bloom, but only once. If planted in the spring, chrysanthemums will bloom year after year.

Tansy flower closeup on blurred background. Tansy, Latin Tanacetum - Genus of perennial herbaceous plants and shrubs of the family Asteraceae.

How to Plant Chrysanthemums

You can either purchase your mums from a garden center or propagate them yourself with cuttings. If you are starting your mums from cuttings, follow these simple steps:

  1. Remove a four- to six-inch stem from a thriving chrysanthemum. Make sure there are at least four leaves (or leaf nodes) on the stem. Make your cut in the morning, when the plant is most hydrated.
  2. Remove all of the leaves on the bottom half of the stem and place your cutting in perlite soil. Make sure at least two leafless nodes are below the soil.
  3. Keep the soil moist and place your cutting in indirect sunlight. After three to four weeks, the roots should be at least one inch long. You can then transfer your cutting to a small container with regular potting soil.
  4. After another five to six weeks, your cutting will be ready to plant outside.

Once you’ve purchased your chrysanthemums from a garden center or propagated them yourself, look for a spot in your yard that gets full, early sun.

Mums like at least five to six hours of sunlight every day. Because they are susceptible to mildew, make sure the soil is well-draining and not too low-lying or damp.

  1. First, dig a hole that is at least two times larger than the size of your root ball.
  2. Space your mums 18 to 24 inches apart and cover the roots with soil and organic matter (compost, peat, etc.). The organic matter will ensure that the roots drain properly.
  3. Pack the soil loosely and install support posts if necessary until the roots get established.
Autumn garden

Caring for Your Chrysanthemums

Early in the season, water your chrysanthemums as often as you water your lawn—about once a week. As your mums grow and begin to bloom, they will need more water. By the time they are fully in bloom, you should be watering them around three times a week.

During the early summer, you should pinch off the tips off of your young plants to encourage bushiness and heavy blooming in the fall. Remember, this is only helpful when your chrysanthemums are getting established. You don’t need to pinch mature mums (it can actually damage them).

Most mums can survive the winter, but not all of them. Some gardeners heavily prune their mums after the fall bloom and, if you live in a particularly cold climate, you can mulch them before the first frost. Simply cover your mums in pine needles, hay, or evergreen leaves until the spring.

bright background of blooming chrysanthemums in the flowerbed
Flower Dome, Garden By The Bay, Singapore

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