There's certain signs that fall is in full swing. Pumpkins in abundance, cider flowing like Buttermilk Falls, Christmas decorations on the shelves, and mums ready for purchase. We delay bringing our plants in from the outdoors as long as we can, in reality, the growing season in New York is short, and we squeeze as much out of it as we can. This is where mums enter the chat.
What Are Mums?
Short for chrysanthemums, these ubiquitous fall flowers originated in East Asia, specifically China. Translated from ancient Greek, chrysanthemum simply means "gold flower". The plant arrived in the United States in 1798 when Col. John Stevens imported a variety known as "Dark Purple".
What Makes Mums Hardy?
Most mums found in our area can tolerate an extreme strata of temperatures from extreme heat to below freezing. Over time, they've been specially bred to have these qualities. Hardy mums will have deep roots and the ability to survive sub zero soil temperatures. When taken care of properly, mums can come back year after year.
Are Mums Just a Pretty Fall Flower?
Chrysanthemum is an amazing plant, and more than just a pretty flower. In China, the yellow and white flowers are used to make tea, in Korea, the blooms are used to make a specific rice wine. They are also commonly found in hot pot and stir fry dishes.
While safe for humans, chrysanthemum is the basis for insecticides. The active ingredients known as pyrethrins, which cripple the central nervous system of all bugs, and keep female mosquitoes from biting. When diluted, pyrethrins will act as an insect repellent.
Mums are available now at most local garden centers and plant retailers.