Beautiful fall flowers, chrysanthemums come into their own in the fall. We grow heirloom chrysanthemums for their long, single stems. They are different than their ubiquitous short and stocky counterpart that you see at every grocery store in the fall.
I have grown heirloom chrysanthemums for two seasons now. I am still getting the hang of them, but I have enjoyed the experience so far. One reason I like growing them is that they keep going in the fall when all the other flowers have died back. I appreciate that last little bit of color as we move into cooler months. I also like the different colors and shapes of heirloom chrysanthemums. Some look like roses and others, like fireworks. These flowers are a must-grow for the home gardener.
Last winter, I decided to try to overwinter the plants. Generally, you are supposed to dig them up, put them in pots, and overwinter them in a sunny and cool environment, which I do not have. I cut them back and covered them with a layer of leaf mulch to insulate them over the winter. This spring, new growth appeared on many of them. The ones that did not have growth above ground had healthy root systems. I left them in place to see what happens this next spring.
I want to increase our chrysanthemum stock and make sure to only increase it with flowers that function well in bouquets with long stems. Essentially, I am learning as I go. I share what I learn so that you can grow them, as well.
Care & Maintenance
You can grow chrysanthemums from seed or from cuttings. You can order plants online or buy them at a local nursery. Be sure to look for heirloom chrysanthemums with a long stem length or height.
Plant chrysanthemums in the spring or fall in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Plant these plants any time before very hot or very cold weather so that they have time to get established. If you choose to plant them in the fall, make sure to protect them with mulch over the winter. Plant seedlings 18-24" apart to ensure good air circulation and to keep them from developing powdery mildew.
In the spring, once plants are about six and twelve inches tall, pinch each branch in order to promote growth in the plant. My plants definitely needed staking, which helped the blooms to stay upright. Fertilize plants with seaweed or fish emulsion a few times over the season until buds form. Stop fertilizing once the plant begins to produce flowers, similar to dahlias.
Deadhead spent blooms from the plant to help it continue to bloom. If you leave dead flowers on the plant, it signals that it is time to go into seed production mode.
To harvest long stems, you need to make sure you start with varieties of chrysanthemums that grow long stems. Harvest stems by cutting deeply into the plant just above the junction with another stem. Remove leaves from the stem and place stems into a clean bucket with clean water.
The amazing thing about chrysanthemums is that they will last for two weeks or more in a vase. Change the water in the vase each day with fresh water, and pull out any other flowers that have died back.
Other things to consider
Chrysanthemums dry well, if you want to use them as dried flowers.
These flowers are not deer resistant, as I can attest. Plant them in a protected area where the deer do not have access to them. They do emit a strong odor, which tends to repel rabbits, but deer still like chrysanthemums.
I would not attempt to plant blooming chrysanthemums that you purchase in a pot. They have used their energy to produce blooms and would not be able to survive the winter. You could *try* to plant them after cutting back the blooms and foliage, making sure to mulch the plant well.
You could take a cutting of the chrysanthemum that you want to save, similar to roses. Cut off a section of healthy stem (4-6"), removing the bottom leaves but leaving the top leaves. Prepare a pot with damp soil medium and press the tip of a pencil or chopstick into the medium to create a hole. Dip the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone and place it into the hole in the soil medium. Press the soil around the stem. Do not overwater the pot, but make sure to keep the soil medium from drying out completely. Keep the pot in a sunny location. Plant out the cutting in the spring once danger of frost has passed. Make sure to harden off the cutting, acclimating it to the environment where it will be planted.
I hope that you will explore heirloom chrysanthemums and consider growing some in your garden.
This post is part of a year-long series on flowers and plants that we love and grow on the farm. Check out other flowers that we love. Rudbeckia | Marigolds | Calendula | Dahlia | Grasses | Hibiscus | Herbs | Perennials | Statice