I love fall! It's my favorite time of year. The sweltering summer has melted into memory, and the air is finally cool and crisp again. Falling leaves swirl in the wind like miniature acrobats.

child sitting in autumn leaves

basket of chrysanthemums

If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow chrysanthemums

An ancient Chinese philosopher wrote that. And I think he may have been on to something.

The chrysanthemum was first introduced in the West during the 17th Century. In 1753, renowned botanist and plant taxonomist, Carl Linnaeus, combined the Greek word chrysos, meaning gold, with anthemon, which means flower, to create the name.

Carl Linnaeus

lavender chrysanthemum

A flower with ancient origins

Cultivated in China as early as the 15th Century B.C., the plant was believed to hold the power of life. The boiled roots were used as a headache remedy. Young sprouts and petals were eaten in salads, and the leaves were brewed for tea.

During the 8th century A.D., chrysanthemums appeared in Japan. The Japanese were so smitten by them they adopted the mum as the crest and official seal of the emperor. The Imperial Order of the Chrysanthemum is their highest Order of Chivalry. Japan also celebrates National Chrysanthemum Day, known as the Festival of Happiness.

Japanese emperor's throne

(Japanese Imperial Chrysanthemum Throne; Artanisen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Uses

dark pink chrysanthemums

Blooms are composed of two types of florets: rays and discs. All classes of chrysanthemums have both types. However, in many of the classes, the disc florets are not obvious. Plant breeders remove them, or they're only uncovered when pollinating and developing new cultivars.

Chrysanthemums make a beautiful fall display in the garden. Potted mums are attractive decorations for an entryway, and tall varieties make spectacular specimen plants.

different colored chrysanthemums

Extremely popular

Since being introduced into the United States during Colonial times, the flower's popularity has grown to such an extent that it is now the undisputed "Queen" of fall flowers. For many of us, including myself, our first introduction to large mums was the corsage for a school dance or other special occasion.

the author's mother's wedding corsage

(my mother's wedding corsage)

The queen still reigns

Chrysanthemums belong to the Asteraceae family and remain the most widely-grown potted plant in the country, as well as one of the longest-lasting cut flowers. The latter characteristic makes them a favorite of florists and floral designers. In the United States, the chrysanthemum is the flower most often grown commercially. It's easy to cultivate, a reliable bloomer, comes in a wide variety of colors and forms, and holds blooms for a long time.

Today, there are so many varieties that a system of classification based on type and growth pattern is used to categorize and identify them. Bonsai cultivars can be trained into miniature forms. Other varieties can be shaped to look like animals, objects, and even people. Cascading cultivars are grown as long pendulous drapes of blooms or trained as large fans, pillars, or trees.

trailing baskets of chrysanthemums

Symbolism

The meaning differs depending on location. In most areas of the United States, chrysanthemums are associated with joy and optimism. They're extremely meaningful to the Japanese. The celebration of National Chrysanthemum Day, one of the five ancient sacred festivals of Japan, occurs every September 9th. It celebrates the hope for longevity and is observed by drinking chrysanthemum saké and eating chestnut rice.

However, in many European cultures, mums became associated with death due to their prevalent use as grave flowers. So if you're there, do not mistakenly give someone a bouquet of mums as an act of gratitude or kindness. That would be a floral faux pas.

bouquet featuring chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemum tea

Select 10-20 fresh or dried yellow chrysanthemum flowers. Always rinse fresh flowers thoroughly.

Place the blooms in a teapot or small saucepan. Other fresh or dried herbs may be added.

Pour three cups of boiling water into the teapot. Steep 2-3 minutes, or to taste.

Pour tea into a cup and sweeten as desired. Cool slightly before drinking. Or serve iced.

If you haven't grown your own, here's a pack of USDA Organic chrysanthemum tea.

chrysanthemum tea

(Taman Renyah, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stir-Fried Garland Chrysanthemum Greens with Ground Pork (ผัดตั้งโอ๋หมูสับ)

creamy chrysanthemums

(Glebionis coronaria/garland chrysanthemum)

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