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Mums to Overwinter

It's not too early to think about chrysanthemums, if you want plants that come back year after year. In the fall, when everyone's selling them, it's hard to get roots established before winter.

In addition, it's tricky to find varieties that are truly hardy. Modern hybrid mums have a gorgeous range of color and form. For the most part, however, as a Massachusetts nurseryman who specializes in chrysanthemums admitted to me, "Hardiness isn't something they're breeding for."

A single, daisy-like wildflower mum is native to subartic regions. Yellow, white, pink and red varieties are sold in Europe; on this side of the Atlantic, I've found only one place selling 'Red Chimo.'

Rubellum (zadawskii) mums, an early hybrid line that's cold-hardy, include 'Clara Curtis,' (salmon-pink), 'Duchess of Edinburgh' (red), 'Emperor of China,' (crimson buds opening to double pink flowers), 'Marie Stocker,' (golden apricot, fading to peach), 'Mei-Kyo' (mauve-pink), the Sheffields (white or pink), and 'Color Echo,' a red-purple sport of 'Mei-Kyo.' Most of these are single; 'Mei-Kyo' is a double button.

In the 1960s and 70s, Agriculture Canada developed cold-hardy mums at their research station in Morden, Manitoba -- for example 'Morden Canary' (yellow), 'Morden Delight' (bronze-red), 'Morden Eldorado' (golden yellow), and 'Morden Fiesta' (purple-pink); all double.

The University of Minnesota also breeds cold-hardy mums; since 1939 they have released more than 70 cultivars. Some are easy to recognize because their name begins with "Minn" -- for example 'Minnruby.'

In 2001, U Minn introduced a new series which flower profusely, grow dense without pinching (to three feet tall and wide), and are hardy to -30°. Marketed as "My Favorite" mums, six are now available: three single daisies: red, pink and coral; a yellow with tubular, "quill" petals; and a semi-double white with yellow center.

However, these are only sold in fall. Tom Brooks, of Central Mass Garden Center on Route 13 in Lunenburg, suggests buying them before the flowerbuds open, to get them into the ground as early as possible. Once in flower, a plant has less energy for establishing roots. (But don't shear off the buds; that stimulates the plant to make not only roots but also tender new top growth, which will weaken the plant.)

Brooks said he left one "My Favorite" mum out all winter in a pot, and it survived fine!

Retailers for mums to plant now:

© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 13 June 2003

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For more information....

On retailers:

  • Rice Creek Gardens has sixteen varieties garden mums they call "the hardiest" including 'Morden Canary,' and several cultivars bred in Minnesota
  • Faribault Growers carries about 100 varieties of Minnesota-hardy mums, around 20 developed by the University of Minnesota, and also many of their own introductions. Call or write for their mail-order catalog:
    3135 2777th St. East
    Fairbault, MN 55021
    (507) 334-6220
  • Canning Perennials has three Mordens, four zawadskiis (including Mei-Kyo), and Arctantheumum 'Red Chimo.'
  • Plant Delights in North Carolina has 'Color Echo.'

On mums from the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station:


Attractive photos of Sheffield, from the gardens of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. However in these the color looks like a clear, light pink; other sources call it an intense, salmon-pink. Since there's also a white variety, perhaps the pink varies... if so, my late mum could be a pale Sheffield.

Grimes Seeds, a wholesaler of seedlings of Belgian mums, say in their chrysanthemum catalog, "Look for Garden Leader Mums for true perennials in severe winters." However I've not found any more information about this line.

Marvelous Mums, by Barbara Pleasant: general information from the National Gardening Association.