Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in China in the 15th century BC. From there, they spread to Japan, where they were extremely popular, and later to Europe. The original forms of chrysanthemums were much smaller and daisy like than the blooms we see today. With a rich symbolic history, the chrysanthemum makes a lovely fall display and a great birth flower for November.
The chrysanthemum first appears in recorded history in the 15th century BC in China. Often depicted in pottery from that time, the mum was cultivated as a flowering herb. The Chinese believed that as a herb, it had the power of life. Thus, they boiled the roots to use for a headache treatment, and ate young sprouts and flowers in salad. There is even a city in China named for the chrysanthemum – Chu-Hsein. Today, the flower remains honored in an annual festival and as the symbolic flower of Autumn.
From China, the chrysanthemum made its way to Japan, where it was immensely popular. They believed that the opening of the petals represented perfection, and that a person could attain enlightenment by meditating on them. The chrysanthemum was adopted as the crest and official seal of the emperor. The position of the emperor is also known as the “chrysanthemum throne.”
There are a few varieties of mums that grew in Europe, but the flower wasn’t actively cultivated until the 17th century. However, one variety, known as feverfew or tansy, was used historically to reduce fever.
In the language of flowers, chrysanthemums have a number of meanings. Cheerfulness, friendship, abundance, wealth, and loveliness are all associated with this flower. However, in many countries, the white chrysanthemum is associated with death, and traditionally used as a graveyard flower.
In the United States, chrysanthemum is the traditional fall flower. You can find them almost anywhere, and let them bloom in the pots they were bought in. However, the plant can get root bound if it gets too big.
To grow from seed, sow the seeds in early spring or after midsummer in well drained soil located in full sun to partial shade. Thin them to about 18 inches apart. Mums prefer low humidity and a cool growing season, and they can provide beautiful color for the garden well into fall.