Chrysanthemums, or “mums”, for short, symbolize the last fanfare of color as summer turns to fall. In fact, the mum comes into its prime when most flowers are fading away, giving it distinction as a cool-weather flower that blooms September through November.
Many of us grew up with mums decorating our doorways in the fall, with mums on haystacks and front porches and flower beds. They’re everywhere – at the garden center, grocery store, and at the farmer’s market. America’s favorite autumn flower isn’t going away any time soon, so this year, take a moment to truly appreciate what this flower is, and how it came to be the Queen of Fall Flowers.
History of the Chrysanthemum, the Flower of Nobility
China has loved the autumn mum as far back as the 15th century. The Chinese word for Chrysanthemum literally translates to “October Flower” and has always stood as a symbol of longevity and perfection. In fact, this flower was considered so perfect that only the nobility were allowed to grow it.
The mum found its way to Japan in the hands of Buddhist monks, who revered the flower for the perfect ordering of its unfolding petals. The Japanese came to view the flower as a symbol of the sun, of rejuvenation, and of longevity. Depictions of the mum popped up on family seals, most notably the Imperial Seal of Japan.
The Chrysanthemum finally reached America’s shores in the 1600s, and 400 years later, they’re the most widely grown potted plant in America. According to the National Chrysanthemum Society of the USA, “mums are the largest commercially produced flower due to its ease of cultivation, capability to bloom on schedule, diversity of bloom forms and colors, and holding quality of the blooms.” They’re a favorite among gardeners and florists for the fact that they produce the longest lasting of all cut flowers, making them perfect for a kitchen table display.
The Homecoming Flower
In America, (specifically Texas), mums have a fabled tradition around football season. It’s customary for the guy to give his date and her mother a corsage of chrysanthemums for the homecoming dance. This tradition dates back to the 1950’s, when corsages were worn on a woman’s lapel and were adorned with ribbons and mums. Now, the tradition has exploded, and Texans go all out with their mum designs: decorating them with lights, teddy bears, and streamers. There are some mum designs that are so elaborate, that the corsage is as big as the girl! Don’t mess with Texas!
Continue Your Own Tradition
This year, continue your own mum tradition with ease and know-how by buying the hardiest, healthiest mums you can find. It’s always a good idea to plant them early, so they can develop a strong root system before winter. Planting them early also helps prevent frost-heave during cold winter months. As frost approaches, keep them well watered and make sure they’re getting at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. They thrive well in well-drained soil (hence why they’re so great in pots!)
There are plenty of ways you can decorate with mums. Put them in hanging baskets, in window boxes, plant them in flower beds, or even put them in a pumpkin! Check out this video about how to make your own DIY pumpkin mum decoration! Happy Fall!