This common flower has been grown for thousands of years in China and Japan not only for its beauty, but for medicinal and culinary uses. A Chinese proverb says, "If you want to be happy for a lifetime, grow chrysanthemums."
Chrysanthemums adorn gardens this time of year with a variety of colors and shapes. Some look like daisies, buttons, spiders, pom-poms, or cushions.
They come in wide range of colors from white to deep burgundy, and many with bi- or tri-colored flowers.
They're mostly sold as an annual. But there are newer varieties that are more consistently hardy in the north. Look for those bred at the University of Minnesota such as Minnautumn, Minnpink, and Snowscape.
If you're growing mums just for the fall color, plant anywhere there's full sun.
Pop them in the flower garden next to sedums and dwarf asters. They look great in containers partnered with colorful kale and pansies.
If you want to try to overwinter your mums, plant on well drained soil, but keep them well watered in fall. Cold, wet, winter soils are a death knell for chrysanthemums.
Once the flowers fade, cut the plant to the ground and mulch with a two-inch-thick layer of bark to protect the shallow roots in winter.
In spring, pinch the top few inches of each stem starting when the plant is four to six inches tall to get that compact look.
Keep pinching any new shoots every week or so until early July. The result will be a rounded plant loaded with tons of flower buds, just like the pros.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about native fall foliage trees. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.