The Florist Chrysanthemum Trial
Chrysanthemums had always been a controversial topic in our house.
I don’t think we could ever really justify growing mums for cut flower production due to the fact that they were so ubiquitous and cheap in the fall - and having to not go through disbudding and staking for production would always be a plus to reduce the amount of labor for producing flowers.
On the other hand, they always seemed so beautiful and so romantic that I always wanted to try growing them, even if just to see the firsthand. There’s always something different about seeing a flower out in the wild, growing, in its naturally occurring form that is just so much more impactful than the bundles you see for sale (even if the ones at the wholesaler are the only ones that are usable in floral design!)
We decided to compromise, and I ended up purchasing some plants this year to run a trial. They took a long time to get going, but eventually they started blooming at the end of September - and I was able to assess them as far as productivity, appearance, and productivity.
I decided to call it the ‘Florist Chrysanthemum’ trial. As far as the term ‘Florist Chrysanthemum’ I want to clarify that the term isn’t meant to state that other mums can’t be used in floral design - in fact, there is little difference between these mums and the type of mums that are commonly used as bedding plants.
I’m using it here to illustrate the fact that these are being grown in the garden or flower farm specifically for use as a cut flower to differentiate it between the landscape or ornamental pot mums that are ubiquitous to fall season. Don’t get me wrong - I love the pot mums, but these are a very different breed with long and curved stems, delicate and imperfect flowers, and just begging to be cut into a vase.
I ended up growing seven that were worth discussing as far as cut flowers for the flower farmer - and even still, some may not make the cut for next year. Read on to find out!
A beautiful mum in a cream-ivory color, she has a beautiful form - the petals gently splay outwards like a ballerina’s tutu, curling delicately and perfectly. The bloom itself is packed with petals - you cannot even see the interior - each overlapping to create an almost anemone-like shape in the middle.
As a flower on her own, she’s beautiful - but there is one caveat that prevents me from recommending her as a cut flower - her height.
I had great hopes for her, but French Vanilla unfortunately is very, very, very short. At a whole twelve inches, she isn’t tall enough to really cut for anything but a bud vase. And that’s how I’ve been enjoying her blooms - but definitely one that will be relegated to the personal garden instead of the cutting garden given its size!
I’m a sucker for rust and orange colored blooms (despite them not being the most popular color) and especially in the fall they just make me happy beyond belief in keeping with the seasonal colors.
Fine Feathers is a quill-form chrysanthemum, each petal rolled into a sealed cylinder that remind me of tiny little pitcher plants. The effect is stunning - large starburst of petals radiating from the center like a floral supernova, each petal delicate and carefully placed.
The color is wonderful too - a faint rusty peach with a faint buttery gold undertone, with deeper rust saturation towards the middle of the flower and lightening towards the exterior petals. In contrast to some of the more punchy colors this time of year, ‘Fine Feathers’ is a more subtle hue that would be perfect pairing with more muted tones - or pairing with the punchier tones to blend and mix to great effect.
Height isn’t an issue here, with ‘Fine Feathers’ reaching 24” easily. I think she’ll be even bigger and better next year, which would be wonderful - I’ve been using her a lot in designs recently!
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from ‘Fred Stone’ - I had been seeing mixed reviews for him, and I wasn’t sure quite what he would end up looking like. We actually purchased him on a last-minute whim - I wanted to ensure that we would have some of the bolder red colors for fall - and I’m glad that we did.
As opposed to the clear and straight reds I had been expecting, ‘Fred Stone’ has a more velvety red texture - almost appearing like a bird’s feathers than a silky flower petal, The outer petals take on a dustier, antiqued appearance while the inner petals have more of that velvet appearance, and the underside of the petals are a light gold, creating a wonderful contrast to the dark saturated velvety red of the petals.
‘Fred Stone’ is growing well, albeit a bit floppy at 24” - we’ll have to do some staking and more pinching next year to get a more robust plant.
Another starburst-shaped mum, this has technically more a quill than a spoon when it comes to its petal shape, giving a much finer appearance than even ‘Fine Feathers’ (say that three times fast!)
First Lady was the first of our mums to bloom, and she has completed blooming before other members of our trial (I’m looking at you ‘Cheerleader’!) have even started. Each of her fine-petaled flowers creates the prototypical daisy shape with an exposed yellow center and each of the quill-like feathers splaying outwards. She has a relatively flat shape - giving the promise of a good pressed flower - and tucks into arrangements nicely due to her shape.
The color is also wonderful, running from a faint light pink to a deeper rosy lavender in the center-most quills. Blends well with other blush flowers (like Cafe au Laits) as well as the jewel tones of fall, and adds a very elegant and fine texture to any arrangement she is part of.
I have to admit, I’m a little bit disappointed with this mum. As opposed to the long and fine petals that I had seen in photographs, ‘Carousel’ was relatively unimpressive - some spoon-shaped petals that were relatively ordinary, reminding me more of a standard florist mum than anything super fancy.
I suppose that I shouldn’t be too upset - I was really hoping for a big and shaggy and fancy mum. But let’s not let that get in the way of enjoying this mum, it’s still a beautiful and very productive flower in its own right!
Long 36” stems make for easy cutting, and its color is a light lavender with additions of dusky purple at the end of the petals in the “spoon”. The dusky purple makes for an easy addition into arrangements, and it can combine just as well with bright sunflowers and zinnias as it can with blush dahlias and cosmos. Its form is more robust than ‘Fine Feathers’ or ‘First Lady’ - creating more tight cluster of petals as opposed to the more flat splayed-out form of the other two - and for this reason it is a great flower due to its architectural form.
It’s a prolific bloomer too, with multiple buds on each long 36” stem. It’s found its way into mixed arrangements, mason jars and centerpieces this fall, and just keeps giving me more and more. I can’t be upset at such a productive plant, especially this time of year when a lot of other plants seem to be giving out and up.
I’ll keep on the hunt for my big shaggy purple mum, but I’ll also be keeping ‘Carousel’ as a workhorse for its productivity!
The biggest and probably my favorite of all the mums in the trial, this is probably meant to be a single disbud mum - and it isn’t doing too poorly at that, giving me giant 3” blooms on big tall 24” stems,
It has a great form too, with layer upon layer of large blousy petals that create the appearance of a large ruffled petticoat.
But the greatest quality of all is probably its color - ranging from a light raspberry pink all the way to a rusty gold with touches of plum. The inner petals are more saturated and darker, showing off the gold undersides of the petal to great effect while the other petals become more dusty and pink.
This makes it a very useful flower since it straddles between summer colors and fall colors - mixing equally as well with the jewel saturated colors of fall as well as with the brighter, lighter tones of summer. I particularly like it paired with ‘Cornel Bronze’ dahlias for the combination of the raspberry with the peachy tones of the dahlia - a perfect combination.
Excited about Florist Chrysanthemums?
You definitely should be! The good news about all these mums is that they are easy to grow - no pests aside from the occasional nibble from a passing snail, weathered through the hot and dry and long summer that we had just fine, and were to be honest quite neglected throughout the growing season.
Even better is the fact that they are listed as winter-hardy from Zone 5-9 - which means that many of these will be reliably perennial as opposed to some of the other florist mums that may be only marginally hardy. We don’t have a problem overwintering pot mums - they thrive in our relatively mild winter climate - so use those as a measure of how well your mums may survive the winter (provide good drainage and possibly shelter as needed).
The fact that they come at a time when we all just need that last little boost of adrenaline in the growing season is a good reason to grow them - you can add a much-needed pop of seasonality and change right when it is needed most. They also grow very well in this cooler weather, shrugging off light frosts fairly easily, and are a great addition to any flower farming operation.
If you’re interested in learning more about growing florist chrysanthemums, check out this post on how to grow them well
If you like growing mums and want to pair them well with other flowers, their natural companions are dahlias - similar form, different species and varieties and make a beautiful combination when used together - Learn how to grow perfect dahlias here
If you’re interested in growing flowers like mums and dahlias as a business, check out the Kokoro Garden’s Flower Farmer eBook bundle here - all the resources you need to plan and grow flowers like mums and dahlias for profit and success!