Chrysanthemums are a genus of plants that flower. They were first cultivated in China and thought of as an herb by the Chinese. They also have played an important symbolic role in Japanese history, where it was probably first introduced in the 8th century. The chrysanthemum inspired the Japanese seal of the emperor, and the position of emperor was often referred to as the Chrysanthemum Throne. Westerners had to wait until the 17th century for the introduction of these lovely plants.
Gardeners may shorten the name of these plants to “mums.” They are frequently a gardener’s delight because there are over 30 varieties of the chrysanthemum. Also the chrysanthemum contains a chemical called pyrethrum, which helps naturally repel most bugs. The chrysanthemum is also a perennial, so established beds of the flowers will come back to delight each year.
There is amazing variance in appearance among mums. Some varieties of chrysanthemum closely resemble a daisy. Others look like a button shape, with small short petals. Pompom chrysanthemums are also popular, with a close, round flower. Large daisy –like mums are often referred to as florists’ chrysanthemums since they are likely to be used in floral arrangement.
Though appearance varies, most chrysanthemums have a plant height of about one foot (30.48 cm) tall. They tend to be fall blooming in a natural garden, and come in a variety of fall colors, like orange, dark red, and yellow. One can also find spring blooming mums with yellow, red, white or pink flowers. In a garden, they do require full sunlight, well-drained soil, and room to grow. Chrysanthemums may also need to be separated in the spring for better fall blooming as they tend to get clumped up together after a year or two.
Mums are usually planted in about April for fall blooming. Spring blooming mums need to be planted shortly after the last frosts, and tend to bloom from May to July. In some gardening stores one can also purchase chrysanthemums that are close to the wild mums of China. These tend to have smaller, less showy flowers.
Chrysanthemums are used to make pyrethrins, a common ingredient in insecticide. The flowers are also a vital part of the Asian drink, chrysanthemum tea. The tea is thought to aid in recovery from colds and the flu and to relieve sore throats. It is also thought to improve blood flow and reduce varicose veins.
The leaves of chrysanthemums may be used in stir-fries. Alternately, they may be steamed as a green vegetable. Some call the cooked leaves rather slimy, but many others like their taste and texture.