Chrysanthemum compensates for its lack of fragrance with rich color and variable form. Centuries of breeding have produced countless shades and tints within the yellow, orange and red range. This includes pink as a tint of red, cream as a tint of yellow, and bronze as a shade of orange. Some reds and pinks are precariously close to purple or lavender. There is, of course, white as well.
Flowers may be solitary big pom-poms, multiple small buttons, or anything in between. Many are daisy types, mostly with bright yellow centers. Spider chrysanthemums have strangely elongated and hooked ray florets, which are generally thought of as ‘petals’. Some chrysanthemums that would otherwise bloom with many small flowers can be groomed to bloom with fewer bigger flowers.
Chrysanthemums with compact growth and uniform bloom are popular as short term annuals for autumn. Their primary bloom phase is impressively profuse. Unfortunately, few get an opportunity to bloom again. Other cool season annuals replace most of them for winter. In ideal situation, with rich media and regular watering, chrysanthemums can actually perform as short term perennials.
Mild autumns and arid summers keep chrysanthemums on a different schedule here than in most other regions. They can get planted in spring to grow through summer and bloom through autumn; but because they can take a bit of work, they are more often planted while blooming in autumn. Although commonly grown as autumn annuals, they are perennials that can regenerate next spring, grow through summer, and bloom even better the following autumn.
Centuries of development in Japan have produced more varieties of chrysanthemums than can be documented. There are really some weird types grown for cut flowers or by hobbyists. Garden varieties are mostly limited to simpler flowers that do not need much thinning or staking. Color ranges through all sorts of hues and shades of yellow, orange, red, pink and bronze, as well as a few purplish colors, cream and white. Many have yellow centers. The aromatic foliage is alluring to some, but objectionable to others.
It is impossible to fit enough information about chrysanthemums into just a few sentences. Centuries of breeding have produced too many cultivars to document. Flower color ranges through many shades and hues of yellow, orange, red, pink, bronze, cream, lavender and almost purple, as well as white. (True purple is purportedly lacking.) Many have yellow centers. The deeply lobed leaves are strongly aromatic.
Flower form is as variable as color is. Some are small domed buttons that bloom in sprays of many blooms. Others are round pom-poms. There are all sorts of daisy types. Spider mums have weirdly elongated ‘petals’, (which are actually ‘ray’ florets). Those that bloom singly are bigger than those in sprays. Some of biggest and most billowy seem to be too heavy for their own stems!
If they get what they want, chrysanthemums can be surprisingly reliable and easy to grow. They do want regular watering, regular application of fertilizer, and richly organic media, such as potting soil. In fact, they are popularly grown in pots because they prefer potting media to garden soil. Potted plants can be brought in while blooming, and then retired to the garden between bloom phases.
Only a few decades ago, when horticulture was taken more seriously, potted blooming plants like chrysanthemums, orchids, azaleas, hydrangeas, lilies and even poinsettias, got the respect that they really deserve. Now they are more commonly purchased in full bloom, enjoyed only as long as their bloom lasts, and then discarded as their blooms deteriorate.
Some get put outside, but often die before they actually get repotted or planted into the garden. Many of those that do get planted, die when their sensitive greenhouse-grown foliage gets scorched by real sun exposure. Others succumb to desiccation before they can disperse their roots. Only orchids want to stay in their original pots for a while, but they rarely get the attention and regular watering that they crave.
Chrysanthemums happen to be in season now, both as potted plants for the interior of the home, and as autumn annuals in the garden. Yet, they are quite sustainable as perennials that can live for quite a few years. They only need to be groomed accordingly so that they can bloom in season, and new stems can replace the old. When they get planted into the garden, multiple plants in a single pot should be separated.
Many chrysanthemums get tall enough to require staking. If left to perform naturally, they bloom profusely. Hobbyists who want to grow larger flowers remove axillary flower buds (sideshoots) to concentrate resources into single terminal (top) flowers that most effectively display their distinctive colors, textures and forms. Sadly, many of the most impressive chrysanthemums have become rare as more profuse bloomers have become more popular.
The Chrysanthemum Society, which can be found on Facebook, is one of the most reliable resources for anyone wanting to grow some of the rare but really fancy exhibition types of Chrysanthemums. The internet makes it possible to get involved with regional chapters well beyond their designated regions. Chrysanthemum fanatics are more than happy to show off and talk about their favorite flowers.