At Plants, etc., Mum’s the Word – The History of Chrysanthemums in America’s Autumn Gardens

Long before the brilliantly colored zinnias had faded, Plants, etc., was packed with the jewel tones of chrysanthemums, and for at least the past month, the garden center has been a kaleidoscopic display of mums. Shoppers have swooped in to take advantage of what surely must be the largest chrysanthemum show in the Ozarks. At Plants, etc., in Harrison, Arkansas, “Mum’s the Word.”

Chrysanthemums have become a standard ornament of autumn, and it made me wonder when and how the mum tradition began in the USA. In a quick search on Google, I came across the following article from the Gainesville Times:

“This time of year, I would venture to say that most everyone has purchased a decorative pot of mums and a colorful pumpkin to adorn their front doorway stoops or other visible places.

Have you ever wondered why we take the time to carefully select just the right color of mums and tediously pick out that certain shape of a pumpkin to adorn our homes?

Exploring the history of why we select certain objects for seasonal display is always a fun topic to write about.


“The mum is well-loved by the home gardener because its colors will last long after most summer flowers are gone.

“Native to the Orient and parts of Russia, the mum was cultivated in China around 1500 B.C. By the 8th century A.D., the mum found its way into Japan where it was so well received the emperor adopted the flower as his crest and official seal.

“To this date, Japan still celebrates an annual festival called the “Festival of Happiness” to celebrate the flower. The mum found its way into Europe in the 1700s and was introduced to the West some 250 years ago during the colonial times.

“Botanists named the plant chrysos, meaning gold, with anthemon, meaning flower. Thus, the name chrysanthemum.

“The ‘mum’ flower is the most popular decorative flower of fall with most home gardeners and florists. Mums symbolize optimism, fidelity, longevity, and joy. Available in a variety of colors ranging from white, cream, shades of yellow and gold, rusty and deep reds to even pink and light purples, the buyer has a wonderful palette from which to choose.

“Look even deeper into the reasons why you choose a certain color and you will be fascinated by what you learn. The rusty and deep reds (my favorite!) symbolize warmth and love. Yellow blossoms signify happiness and energy. White conveys purity and truth.

“The mum is second only to the rose in popularity and according to Japanese culture, it is believed if a chrysanthemum petal is set inside the bottom of a wine glass, this will ensure a healthy and long life.

“Another important economic use for the mum flower is a natural substance known as pyrethrin, which is extracted from the seeds of the mum flower. Botanical pyrethrins are used as a natural insecticide and made into an organic insect repellent spray, making it one of the safest insecticides for use in the vegetable garden and areas where food is stored.” Wanda Cannon, The Gainesville Times, October 18, 2012.