The Garden Muse —The Chrysanthemum

Published 9:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Chrysanthemum, a flowering herb, was first cultivated in China. It was used as a culinary herb for medicinal purposes. The petals and young shoots were often added to salads. The flowers and leaves were brewed into tea and wine was made from fermented petals.

The plant is listed as edible; however, I caution that it does belong to the daisy family. Also, most chrysanthemums today are cultivated by commercial growers for decorative purposes and may have been chemically treated. That being said, I would not ever consume any part of a plant that I did not grow or know the plant’s provenance 100% and neither should you.

As a Chinese herb it is believed to harbor the power of life and is often offered to the elderly as a symbol of long life. It is also the symbol of Friendship, Happiness, & Well being in China where the colors gold and yellow are considered especially lucky. Here in the U.S., it symbolizes the arrival of Fall. It is the official flower of Mother’s Day in Australia due to its nickname ‘Mum.’ In many European cultures it is widely associated with death because of its widespread use in graveside floral decoration. In Spain, France, Poland, and Hungary it is solely used as a funeral flower.

Chrysanthemums grow best in a sunny location that provides some protection from afternoon sun. This plant prefers well drained soil that has been amended with compost or other rich organic matter. Most varieties will bloom for four to eight weeks with proper care and attention.

Mums can be overwintered in pots indoors, but it is a process and requires space in an unheated building. There are many articles on this process online. I much prefer planting them in the ground out of doors and hoping they survive in the location I choose. Instruction on how to plant potted mums outdoors can also be found online. I have had success doing so and believe a high survival rate depends more on the variety of the plant than gardening skill.

Dawn Conrad is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Herbal enthusiast, Writer and Fiber Artist. She can be contacted at