All around the United States, Chrysanthemums, also called Mums for short, stand firm as the undisputed queen of fall flowers. Unlike most other flowers, they grow beautifully in cool, autumn weather. By the time September gets underway, Mums start popping up in flower beds and on the stoops of suburban homes everywhere. I mean, who can blame them?
With over forty varieties and dozens of colors, they are the perfect choice for gardens, potted plants, or cut bouquets. However, while common, these brilliant blooms are anything but ordinary. They have a rich history. Are you interested to learn more about Chrysanthemums? Stick around, and I’ll drop some fun facts about these hardy fall flowers.
All About Chrysanthemums
The History of Chrysanthemums
The chrysanthemum was first cultivated in China as a flowering herb as early as the 15th Century B.C. It was said to have the power of life. This inspired many to boil the roots as a headache remedy, use young sprouts and leaves in salads, and brew the leaves as a festive drink.
Around the 8th century A.D., the chrysanthemum appeared in Japan. This was where many flower shapes, colors, and varieties were created. The way to grow and shape the flowers also developed, and chrysanthemum culture flourished. The Japanese were so enamored with the flower that they adopted a single flowered chrysanthemum as the crest and official seal of the Emperor: a 16-floret variety called “Ichimonjiginu”. The Japanese also celebrate National Chrysanthemum Day, the Festival of Happiness. Starting in 910, when the imperial court held its first chrysanthemum show, the festival is celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month.
The Western World got an introduction to the chrysanthemum was during the 17th Century. Renowned Swedish botanist Karl Linnaeus, coined the name “chrysanthemum” from the Ancient Greek words chrysos, which means gold, and anthemon, meaning flower.
Chrysanthemums entered the United States in 1798 in an effort to grow attractions within Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. Colonel John Steves imported a carefully cultivated variety known as ‘Dark Purple’ from England.
Today, Mums remain the most widely grown potted plant in the country and are one of the longest-lasting of all cut flowers. In fact, the chrysanthemum is the largest commercially produced flower in the United States, due to its ease of cultivation, diversity of form and color, and ease of care.
I’m in Love with the Shape of Mums
There are 40 wild species and thousands of varieties of chrysanthemums. The varieties can differ in size, color, and number of flowers per stem.
- Single Bloom mums have white petals and yellow centers, much like daisies. They typically grow 2-3 feet high and have a bushy quality, although there are smaller variations that stay under a foot.
- Quilled Bloom chrysanthemums have petals that are spiky and quill-like. The petals are narrow and can look somewhat like a spoon due to the cupped edge. Quilled blooms are open-tipped, have no open center, and grow 6 or more inches in height.
- Spider Blooms get their name from their long and thin petals that look a lot like spider legs. The petals are long and tubular, and often go off in all different directions, looking lacy and elegant.
- Anemone chrysanthemums have a central disk with tubular petals surrounding themselves around that disk. The Angel variety is particularly striking with it’s yellow center and small lavender-colored petals, as well as outer petals that are somewhat larger and are usually dark purple with white tips.
- Pompons – not Pompoms – have globe-shaped heads and short petals that hide their disk. Smaller ones are also called button mums. Pompons are perfect for use in sprays.
- Decorative Blooms vary in size and their petals cover their disks. They are usually 5 inches high or taller, and they make excellent potted plants. One variety, the Lexy, is somewhat smaller than regular chrysanthemums and has bronze petals and a very dark center.
- Incurve blooms either curve inward or outward, hence the name. These flowers are more uniform-looking, more ball-like and compact, making them especially attractive to many mum-lovers.
- Reflex mums have flat centers and overlapping petals that curve downward.
- Brush or Thistle Chrysanthemums have fine, tubular petals that grow parallel to the stem. Excellent for use in small sprays and short flower displays.
- Spoon mums have petals that look like spoons at the tips.
- Mums can be so unique that many are known as “Unclassified” because their beauty does not fit neatly into any other category.
Different Colors and their Meanings
The chrysanthemum is a symbol of defiant joy and beauty, as it blooms in the fall on the edge of winter. In the Victorian era, they used chrysanthemums to show friendship and send your good wishes. In China, the chrysanthemum symbolizes long life as well as good luck in the home and is a traditional offering to the elderly. Chrysanthemums are the official flower for Australian Mother’s Day due to their nickname “mums.” Belgium and Austria use the chrysanthemum almost exclusively as a memorial flower to honor loved ones that have passed.
Various colors symbolize other important meanings as well. Red chrysanthemums symbolize love and deep passion, while yellow usually signifies neglected love or sorrow. If you want to show your loyalty to someone, send them a white chrysanthemum or send a sick friend a bouquet of violet mums to offer well wishes.
Sister Flower: Daisy Spray Chrysanthemums
With its perimeter petals protruding from a disk or “eye”, the Daisy Spray Chrysanthemum owes its name to its daisy-like appearance. Its petals are actually a “composite” of many individual flowers on one head. Like other chrysanthemums, daisy spray chrysanthemums have a long vase life of 7 to 14 days. Common Relatives are the cosmos, dahlia, calendula, and zinnia.
Can you eat it?
Chrysanthemums aren’t just pretty to look at, they are also edible! For hundreds of years, Chrysanthemum has been a traditional ingredient in Chinese medicine to treat respiratory problems, high blood pressure, and hyperthyroidism. Chrysanthemum, or “ju hua” in Chinese, is also a common recommendation for reducing fever and cold symptoms in the early stages.
But before you wave it off as an old wives tale, scientific studies have actually found that some chemicals extracted from chrysanthemum flowers can reduce inflammation and treat bone disorders like osteoporosis when taken over a long period of time, in addition to offering relief for a variety of ailments, including tinnitus, colds, sore throats, headaches, inflamed eyes, vertigo, Skin conditions, anxiety, allergies, high blood pressure, etc. The best way to incorporate chrysanthemum into your daily routine is to steep dried flowers into tea.
Chrysanthemum tea is easy to make. If you use homegrown chrysanthemum, pluck the flowers and leave them to dry for several days in a sunny spot. You could also use a food dehydrator to speed up the process. You can find dry chrysanthemum blooms in health food and Asian groceries.
How to make Chrysanthemum tea
Boil the water and allow it to cool for about a minute to around 100°F. Then use between 3-6 dried flowers to an 8 oz. cup of water. Let it steep for a few minutes, and that’s it! The tea has a golden hue and a mild, flowery flavor similar to chamomile.
Ingredients include calcium, beta-carotene, magnesium, potassium, ascorbic acid, essential oils, fiber, iron, Vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, and folacin.
*If you make chrysanthemum tea, make sure you use organically grown plants free of harmful chemicals. People who may be pregnant or have medical conditions should check with their doctor.
From food to stunning bouquets the chrysanthemum is a wonderfully beautiful and versatile flower. They make a wonderful addition to bouquets for friends and family, as there’s a color and style suitable for any occasion.
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Toni T. is a writer, mother, amateur makeup artist, and coffee addict — not necessarily in that order! A lover of all things vintage, she’s an encyclopedia of useless 80’s trivia and adores a bold red lip. She is a second-generation Greek American with dreams of traveling abroad to see the land on which her ancestors walked but, for now, she resides in the ‘burbs of New Jersey with her husband and children.