The Meaning of Mum Flowers

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Chrysanthemums need long nights to flourish.
Chrysanthemums need long nights to flourish. (Image: Assawin/iStock/Getty Images)

Words that are tricky to say and difficult to spell often get shortened in the English language. Hence, the affectionate nickname "mum" is used for the bushy, brightly colored annual plant chrysanthemum (Dendranthema x grandiflorum). The literal meaning of "chrysanthemum" has Greek origins: chrys for "golden" and anthemon for "flower." Widespread cultivation of the mum in North America, Europe and Asia has yielded a veritable rainbow of varieties. So it is no longer just a golden flower.

Thousands of Years of Mums

The Chinese began cultivating chrysanthemum 2,000 years ago, and the plant was adopted as the national flower of Japan, where it has been grown for 1,000 or more years. The history of the mum is much less extensive in the United States, but the country had at least 17 varieties in 1829. Some mums are hardy outdoors all year, and some are non-hardy and grown in greenhouses. Chrysanthemums are simple to grow from cuttings, but they require more than 11 to 12 hours of darkness per night to produce flowers and need their new shoots pinched back in order for them to have bushy forms.

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