Hardy Korean Chrysanthemums

Hardy Korean Chrysanthemums

Hardy Korean Chrysanthemums
Release Date: 11/05/10

R. Wayne Mezitt is a third-generation nurseryman, Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, and Owner of Weston Nurseries, Inc.

Wayne served as president of Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA), New England Nursery Association (NENA), and American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) which is based in Washington, DC.

Wayne is the horticultural consultant for GrowingWisdom.com with Dave Epstein.

Wayne Mezitt

If you’ve visited our Garden Center in the last few weeks, perhaps you’ve noticed the white-flowering 4-foot-wide low mound to the left of the main entrance on Route 135. That’s Chrysanthemum ‘Weston’s Tyler’ – one of the so-called Korean Mums. This type of chrysanthemum is significantly different from ordinary garden chrysanthemums. We believe many more gardens would benefit by using them.

Most people assume their choices are limited to those ubiquitous, colorful (same say “gaudy”) garden or cushion chrysanthemums being sold everywhere (including grocery stores!). These certainly add color for many applications, but as attractive as they can be when in flower, they are best for seasonal use. These typical garden mums can be in flower as early as September, generally finishing bloom and losing their appeal after several weeks or frost. Most homeowners rightfully relegate them to the compost pile when they finish flowering – they need special care in the home garden and usually do not prosper over the winter in this region.

Supplementing your plantings with Korean mums is a great choice – many cultivars only begin flowering in mid October, extending your garden’s color into November every year. Korean mums have attractive foliage all summer, require minimal maintenance, and their flowers are very tolerant of below-freezing temperatures (at least into the mid-20°’s). They perform best with space to spread in full sun and moderately rich soil, and are reliably winter hardy in Zone 5 or even colder. Some gardens in this region feature healthy clumps that have been growing there for decades.

Even though Korean chrysanthemums have been available to the public for many years, most homeowners are unaware of them. Some of the best were developed at Bristol Nurseries in Connecticut in the 1930’s. Sadly, many of the cultivars developed there are no longer on the market. Generally available at many garden centers today are the apricot pink ‘Sheffield’ with 3” single flowers, single lavender-flowering ‘Venus’, single flowering ‘Ryan’s Pink’ and the smaller (1” flowers), double-purple ‘Mei-kyo’. Other cultivars are sometimes offered by garden centers.

I discovered ‘Weston’s Tyler’ as a volunteer seedling more than 15 years ago in my garden, apparently a seedling from the nearby ‘Venus’. We decided to name it because its flowers are whiter than its parent and it added a different effect to our mid October garden. The plant by our entry drive has been there for about 5 years. It would be more compact, but no less floriferous, if we had pruned back it a bit in early July.

Why are the Korean mums not more widely used? Maybe it’s because fewer customers shop at garden centers this time of year. That’s unfortunate because there’s really no equal for reliable color in late autumn gardens. Many sophisticated gardeners are aware of the Korean Mums and feature them in their gardens. The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has an extensive Korean chrysanthemum display in its Home Gardening Center. I’m hoping these Korean mums will become increasingly popular as homeowners recognize how much enjoyment they add to their late-fall garden.