Saturday, November 07, 2009

Don't throw those chrysanthemums away - well, not yet anyway...



Chrysanthemums have to be THE plant of the late autumn. Just when everything else is dying off, they burst into flower and - depending on what type you've got and how they've been treated - will treat you to a mass of small blooms or wow you with a smaller number of much larger ones. Not to mention a range of colours from reddy brown through yellow to creamy white - and even pink and purple, colours which are less common here. And all the different petal shapes ...

Where does the name come from? In 1753 Karl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who first started to classify plants and animals logically, combined the Greek word chrysos, meaning gold, with anthemon, meaning flower. And despite
attempts by recent taxonomists to change the plant's classification, the name has stuck.

In Italy the shops start to fill up with chrysanths in early October. Forget lilies, here chrysanthemums are the flower of the dead - the plant you take to the graves of your loved ones on November 1st. Buy them at the beginning of the month and they're cheap. By Hallowe'en the price has quadrupled.

Being the flower of the dead, it's not a flower that most people have on their balconies here. But I wouldn't be without mine. Especially my little yellow ones. I've had them for years and they go on and on and on ... If you've bought a pot of chrysanths for your balcony this year, don't even think of throwing them away after they've stopped flowering.

They do need a bit of care though. First of all, cut of the dead flower heads as soon as - well, as soon as they're dead. If you're in a fairly cold zone, they'll need covering. We have a Hardiness Zone 8 type climate - the temperature may drop well below freezing in January. Mine get moved back towards the walls of the house and covered in fleece. And don't overwater during the winter.

By March you'll notice that new shoots are starting to come up from near the base of the old plant. These are what you want for next autumn's blooms. Take them off the plant when they're about 2.5 ins long, remove the bottom two leaves and cut vertically across the stem just below the leaf joint. Dip the end in hormone rooting powder and pop them into some potting mix in a propagator to root. Keep them in a warm place.


Well, that's what the books say. But quite honestly I find it works just as well without the hormone rooting powder and with ordinary potting soil. And I don't usually bother with a propagator - quite often I'll put them straight into the pots where I want them to grow. But then, it can be quite warm here in March. But anyway, they're one of the easiest plants to root from cuttings that I know. You may lose a few this way (so take more than you expect to need), but most will be quite happy.

And then you can throw the old plant away. You could try keeping it, but the results aren't usually as good as the first year.

Once the cuttings have rooted, keep in mind that chrysanths like soil which is rich in organic matter and neither very acid nor very alkaline. You'll also need to decide whether or not to "stop" them in April. "Stopping" means pinching out the growing shoot of the plant to encourage it to put out side shoots. If you stop, you'll end up with a myriad of small flowers, If you don't, you'll get a tall stem and one, much larger flower. As you can see from the photos, I stop ...


I have a sneaking affection for these little yellow ones. Yes, I've tried others and I'm the first to admit that these aren't half as elegant as many of the larger ones . I've got some large white ones in bud which I hope will flower soon, and a couple of years ago I had some nice red-brown ones. But nothing does quite so well as these do. They don't seem to mind the heat we have all summer, they shrug off pest attacks, and don't complain at all when they're left to the hideous over-watering that my plant-sitters inflict on them when I'm away. I don't care if the neighbours do think I'm weird - my chrysanths are here to stay.


22 comments:

Chandramouli S said...

These are for dead? That's news to me. We use these beauties to worship the gods here and I love these. Especially those yellow ones and the white ones with yellow center. Great post. Informative too.

janie said...

Excellent tutorial on chrysanthemums! I printed this out to keep!

Sue Swift said...

Whoops what a typo - in the original version of this post, I'd written that we were in Zone 3. What? In sunny Italy. No way - I think we'd have to move up to Siberia ... I'd meant to type Zone 8 - don't ask me how I managed to hit the 3 key. I've talked about our hardiness zone several times before, so I do know, honest ...
I've now changed it. But to those of you who realised and didn't point it out - thanks for your self-restraint :)

Jan said...

I didn't realise that they're the plants of the dead! In the UK I just used to plant out the pot-Mums once they'd finished. Here we have one plant, which just about survives the summer with no watering! It's been in bloom for about a fortnight now.

Digital Flower Pictures said...

Mums help finish our season with a bang here. We just treat them as annuals as they don't overwinter in Connecticut very well. We have been using the Sheffield hybrids a lot lately and they are truly perennial.

Janet said...

Glad you clarified that zone issue! ;-) Love the bright yellow chrysanthemums, very sunny.

JWLW said...

Great post Sue, Informative and a good read.

Have a good day,
John

Stopwatch Gardener said...

I have to try chrysanthemums -- glad you posted this. I'm so keen to find something that will flower hard in November for my daughter's birthday. Thanks!

Maria Berg said...

I am layz so I do by new one, but I will have i in mind that you wrote it was easy.

I have a Canon Eos 40D camera, lenses 18-70 and 100-300 mm.
And i do take A LOT of photos... maybe 70.000 this year....
Maria Berg, Sweden that love Carl von Linné!

Pam's English Garden said...

Yellow mums are my favorite color, too. The very hardy varieties often survive the winter here, although we are zone 5, so I plant them out. Mine are all finished now, and today I cut them down and covered them with mulch. Hopefully they will appear again next spring - that's one of the fun things about gardening ... you never know what will survive. Good post!

Daffodil Planter said...

Thanks for the tips! I have a big garden but grown chrysanths in containers--and wondered why they were not robust in following years.

mr_subjunctive said...

(Off-topic, but I couldn't find an e-mail address for you:)

Do you have any idea why I would be getting hundreds (literally!) of hits over the last four days from people in Europe (particularly Italy) looking for pictures of Tradescantia pallida? Is it in the news there or something?

It's seriously crazy. Roughly one out of every five page views I've gotten is for that single page, and the hits are coming disproportionately from Italy. Any guesses?

Sandy said...

We, Chinese, brings chrysanthemums when we visit the cemeteries and pay our respects to our loves ones too.
Great post Sue :)

easygardener said...

One of the stars of my garden this year was a dwarf pot Chrysanthemum that I moved into the garden. It has flowered its socks off and unlike the Aster has not suffered from mildew.

SunTiger said...

It's official. You've been awarded the honor of "BEST BLOG" designation. See http://PsychicSunTiger.blogspot.com for details. :-D

Matron said...

They are undoubtedly the stars of the late Autumn garden, they flower their little hearts out. By the way, where's Bilbo? we're waiting for him to appear on your blog!

Sue Swift said...

Tahnks to everyone for the comments. You'll find the answer to Mr Subjunctive's question in the next post.
Matron - where is Bilbo indeed? Still travelling it seems. But I did warn his last host thet the Italian post was apalling and to pack hime a lot of sandwiches and a good book to read ...

mr + ms rabbit said...

Such a helpful post, feeling very well-informed about how to manage chrysanthemums now. Thanks!

Mary Delle said...

Love to see how you love your chrysanthemums!! They do have a charm all their own. They are loved in China for Chinese New Year.

Mary Delle said...

Also, thank you picking my post.

Muhammad khabbab said...

Your post encouraged me a lot to try propagate mums. I always thought it will be a difficult task. Thanks for sharing.

Chris and his Mums said...

Hello there! I just want to share that I just divided my mums earlier. It's my first time. It was very exciting. Can you tell me how the new divisions will grow? Will there be new stems to divide in the future? I ask because for each division, there was only one main stem.

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