Plants & Growing

Chrysanthemum Care & Growing Tips In The UK

colourful yellow and orange chrysanthemums
Written by Chris Lee

Chrysanthemum – or “mums”, as they are affectionately called – are one of the most popular flowers among gardeners, and rightly so!

With their vibrant shades of violet, yellow, red, and orange, they are sure to add a burst of glorious colour to any garden. 

Not only will this beautiful plant bring luscious flowers to your garden, but choosing the right variety will prove to be a gift that keeps giving year after year. They are also fairly easy to grow.

Stunning bouquets of chrysanthemum flowers outdoors
Stunning bouquets of chrysanthemum flowers outdoors

In this article we will cover everything you could possibly need to know about growing and caring for this fashionable flower.

What are Chrysanthemums?

This flower is a member of the Compositae (daisy) family, coming in a wealth of colours, shapes, and sizes. Of all daisies, none have been bred and cultivated as much as the chrysanthemum, whose name means “Golden Flower”.

Originally cultivated in China as a herb, these hardy plants bloom from September to frost and are accentuated by their deep green leaves.

Being relatively inexpensive they have kept their place as a firm favourite in gardens around the world, up there with other big names like roses, tulips, and carnations.

Are Chrysanthemums Annual Or Perennial?

As we’ve said, there are hundreds of different varieties of chrysanthemum, and people often ask whether they are annual or perennial.

The short answer is both. The annuals are more commonly grown as potted plants, so in this article we’re going to focus more on the perennials.

Choosing A Chrysanthemum For Your Garden

With so many varieties to choose from, finding the right one for your garden is key. We’ve chosen a few of our favourites to help you decide which will brighten up your garden best.

Alison

Perhaps these pretty plants remind you of your granny’s garden, but Alison is making a strong come back. With varying shades of pale pink, lilac and yellow, this single bloom plant will add fashionable pastel colours to your garden. She loves the sun so put her where she can make the most of it!

Breitners Supreme

This flower instantly reminds you exactly which family they belong to – the daisy! Their beautiful snow white and green-eyed flowers will bloom reliably in the late summer and early Autumn months. They are flamboyantly floriferous and, growing to up to 60cm, absolute eye-catchers!

Bretforton Road

A delightful, hardy, autumnal border plant, the Bretforton Road has semi-double, illuminating purple-pink flowers with vigorous green foliage. It’s also excellent for cut flowers.

This variety is named for the area it is cultivated, and has not been formally accepted yet.

Burnt Orange

With its spider like petals in a glorious burnt orange hue, this plant can really make your garden pop. It’s distinctive, jagged green leaves only add to its wow factor. It is extremely hardy and a high achiever both in shade and in sunlight.

Look at it glow!

There are many other types of chrysanthemum including the fantasy, matisse, and renoir. Each has a subtly different colour profile and size: browsing the Royal Horticultural Society’s chrysanthemum pages is a great place to learn more.

Chrysanthemum Habitat & Growing Conditions

When planting your Chrysanthemum, timing is everything. No doubt you want to fill your garden with their loaded blooms, and understanding what they need to thrive will give you the best chance to do just that.

When to plant your chrysanthemums

Obviously it’s important to read about the exact flower you are planting, but as a general rule of thumb, planting perennial chrysanthemums is best done in the spring. This gives the flower a chance to establish itself over the months and adapt to its new home. 

Giving the root system time to grow stronger over the summer and autumn will help ensure your chrysanthemum survives the winter. Planting in the spring also gives you a stronger chance of having a much bigger bloom the following year.

Choosing the right soil

Though chrysanthemums can survive in most soils, they are best suited to well-draining soil with plenty of moisture. While in theory it is possible to grow them in hard dry soil, be aware that this will prevent the roots from properly establishing themselves. At the other end of the spectrum, wet boggy soil risks drowning the roots.

To create the ideal soil for your Chrysanthemum, work the soil down to the depth of around twenty to thirty centimetres. Follow this by adding some compost and mix it in to a depth of five to ten centimetres. 

When you squeeze the soil in your hand it shouldn’t clump together, it should just gently crumble.

Spacing

Spacing is extremely important when planting chrysanthemums. When you first plant them the garden might still feel quite bare, but don’t be tempted to plant them too closely together. 

By the autumn after the spring planting, your flowers could be up to three feet high! They are known to increase in size yearly as well, so keep this in mind and make allowances when planting.

Let the sun shine!

Chrysanthemums love the sun. Though they only require 6 hours of sunlight a day, the more they receive the more they will grow and bloom. 

A nice little secret about this plant is that when it senses the change in light as evenings become darker in late summer, it will begin to set buds. Planting your chrysanthemums near artificial lights is a way to take advantage of this, and lengthen their bloom time.

Caring For Your Chrysanthemum

As we’ve mentioned, chrysanthemums are not difficult plants to grow and are pretty low-maintenance. That said, having a good care plan will ensure you really get the most out of them and will keep your garden bright and colourful.

Watering

As we said earlier, chrysanthemums thrive in well-drained soil with plenty of moisture. 

Watering this plant evenly and regularly throughout spring, summer, and autumn will keep it strong and healthy. If the ground freezes in winter than you can hold off watering until the days become warmer. 

A confident and healthy chrysanthemum pot
A confident and healthy chrysanthemum pot

We recommend watering in the morning to a depth of about twenty centimetres, directing the water to the base of the plant.

Pruning

Chrysanthemums don’t actually need pruning, but “pinching” them throughout the growing season is important. This will allow your plants to branch out and flourish. 

Come springtime, when your plant is around fifteen centimetres tall, simply pinch an inch off of each shoot. You can repeat this every couple of weeks until summer.

In autumn, deadhead when necessary until the flower ceases to bloom. When your chrysanthemum dies back for winter, don’t cut it back. Allowing it to die back naturally will usually produce a much stronger and healthier plant the following year.

Fertilizing

To give your chrysanthemums the very best chance to flourish, fertilizing is highly recommended. Feed them with a well balanced, all purpose fertilizer and do so consistently throughout the vegetative stages. This will prevent premature flowering and ultimately help your plants grow even larger and more luscious.

Once your chrysanthemum flowers are in bloom, switch to a balanced, water soluble fertilizer and apply monthly from early spring through summer.

Protecting Chrysanthemums From Harm

Chrysanthemums really are a low maintenance plant, and although they are at risk from some diseases, they seldom have any trouble if you care for them well.

Pests

The main suspects to watch out for are mites, thrips, aphids, and earwigs. And slugs and snails of course! 

To deal with these mini-beasts use either insecticidal soap spray or a good strong blast from your hose to remove them from the foliage.

mite on chrysanthemum flower
These guys don’t belong here!

Diseases 

Among the most common diseases to watch out for, fungal diseases are the easiest to spot and can be dealt with quickly. Keep an eye out for leaf spot, powdery mildew, rust, and moulds. 

There are a multitude of very effective anti-fungal sprays that can be bought from any gardening centre, although with some fungal diseases removing the parts of the plant that are infected is necessary to prevent it from spreading.

Some of the pests mentioned above can also spread viral diseases, many of which sadly have no cure. Look for signs of stunted growth and yellowing foliage. 

Unfortunately if you determine the plant is suffering from a viral disease, you may need to destroy it. Sad though this is, keep in mind that it is very unlikely: providing you are caring for your chrysanthemum well, they rarely contract diseases.

Can chrysanthemums survive winter?

Yes! Though some chrysanthemums can survive if planted immediately in autumn, they will have a much stronger chance of survival if planted in spring.

Propagation Of Chrysanthemums

Whether your friends are begging you for a cutting, or you’ve fallen so in love with your Chrysanthemum that you want to add even more to your garden, you will be pleased to learn that these plants are easily propagated. 

Dividing

Not only does dividing allow you to add more chrysanthemums to you or a friend’s garden, but it is also essential to keep your plants healthy. Different varieties will require dividing at different times. If you notice the plant is no longer growing with as much vigour as it used to, it is quite likely time to divide.

Spring is the best time to divide your chrysanthemum. Carefully remove the plant from the ground and gently break it up into smaller sections. Pick out the younger healthier parts of the outer section: the wood-like centre can be discarded.

Replant the young, strong sections at least a foot apart in soil that is rich with all the necessary minerals it will need to flourish. 

Preparing a cutting

Propagating chrysanthemums can be done in either in spring – as they begin to shoot – or late autumn, when they have ceased to bloom.

Fill a pot or tray with gritty compost and grab a pair of scissors or pruners. Gently cut stems at a length of about ten to fifteen centimetres. You want to make sure that each cutting has at least four leaves or leaf nodes. We advise taking the cutting in the morning when the plant is well hydrated.

Next, cut the bottom of the stems around a centimetre below the lowest leaf or node and carefully plant the cuttings into your pot or tray ensuring that none of the leaves from each cutting touch another.

Now place the cuttings in a warm room, but take care to avoid them being in direct sunlight. Water is needed to maintain moist compost at all times but beware of over-watering as this can lead to rotting.

After three or four weeks check the root growth: you should see the roots coming through at the bottom of the pot or tray, and once they are a couple of centimetres long they are ready to be planted into their new individual containers. You can then distribute these to people as gifts!

Advise your friends to keep their little plants in a warm, sunny room, again avoiding direct sunlight and to keep the potting mixture moist. They should then allow the plants to develop for another six weeks and then they can transplant their chrysanthemums permanently into their garden.

So There You Have It…

Chrysanthemums are a timeless favourite, and welcome addition to any British garden. They are colourful, versatile, and surprisingly hardy for such a pretty flower.

Whatever your needs, there will be a chrysanthemum variety that fits in your garden. This guide has hopefully given you all the information you need to choose the right chrysanthemum for you, then to plant it and nurture it to maturity.

Happy gardening!

About the author

Chris Lee

Chris is interested in nature and the good things that happen when people are in it. He is a freelance writer, with writing published about cycling, green living, and ways to make a difference without fundamentally restructuring your lifestyle.

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