Chrysanthemum 'Mei-Kyo', November 7, 2016
Chrysanthemum 'Red October' at the entrance to Weston Nurseries garden center, November 11, 2016
for late autumn color in your yard
Chrysanthemum 'Glowing Ember', November 7, 2016
Chrysanthemum 'Weston's Tyler', early November
A dozen Korean mum cultivars in full bloom, early November
These days most of us assume our chrysanthemum choices are limited to those ubiquitous, colorful (some say “gaudy”) garden or cushion mums available everywhere, often as early as August. But as attractive as they can be when in flower, they are best suited for seasonal use; they finish blooming and their appeal diminishes after several weeks or a hard frost. Most homeowners then rightfully relegate them to the compost pile–--they usually do not survive the winter in this region.
Supplementing your plantings with Korean mums is a great choice---many cultivars only begin flowering in mid October, extending your garden’s color into November every year. Korean mums have attractive foliage all summer, requiring minimal maintenance (should be cut back hard in early July). They are reliably winter hardy in Zone 5 or even colder, tolerating below-freezing temperatures at least into the mid-20's. They perform best in full sun and moderately rich soil with space to spread. Some gardens in this region feature healthy clumps that have been growing there for years.
Even though Korean chrysanthemums have been available to the public for decades, most homeowners are unaware of them. Some of the best were developed at Bristol Nurseries in Connecticut in the 1930’s. Sadly, many of the cultivars developed there are no longer on the market.
Generally available at many garden centers today are the apricot pink ‘Sheffield’ with 3” single flowers, single lavender-flowering ‘Venus’, single flowering ‘Ryan’s Pink’ and the smaller (1” flowers), double-purple ‘Mei-Kyo’. Other cultivars are sometimes offered by garden centers.
I've been growing these mums for years when I discovered ‘Weston’s Tyler’ as a volunteer seedling more than 15 years ago in my garden, apparently a chance seedling from the nearby ‘Venus’. We decided to name it because its flowers are whiter than its parent and it added a different effect to our mid October garden. 'Red October' was a more recent chance seedling, perhaps the darkest red I had ever seen.
Why are the Korean mums not more widely used? Maybe it’s because they show only foliage most of the summer and fewer customers shop at garden centers this time of year. That’s unfortunate because there’s really no equal for reliable color in late autumn gardens.
Many sophisticated gardeners are aware of the Korean Mums and feature them in their gardens. The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has an extensive Korean chrysanthemum display in its Home Gardening Center.
I’m hoping these Korean mums will become increasingly popular as homeowners recognize how much enjoyment they add to their late-fall garden.
Every spring I propagate and grow small plants of several cultivars and offer them for sale at my Hort-Sense nursery (sorry, I have no shipping capability). Please contact me if you are interested in having some for your garden: