Popular chrysanthemums
Published on: Sunday, February 23, 2020
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Yellow pompons.
EVERYONE knows what a chrysanthemum flower is as it is one of the most popular of all cut flowers.  It is also very widely cultivated as potted plants as well as for bedding purposes because of its superfluous and attractive flowering pattern. 

Chrysanthemums are subtropical to temperate plants that are native to China and some countries in Europe. The size of the plant varies greatly and may range from dwarfs of 15cm height to ones that are more than one metre tall.  

They may appear to be softies but while many are annuals, most are actually herbaceous perennials whereby the old stems can readily regenerate new growths and start multiple new plants without problem.

Most chrysanthemum cut flowers are from the tall varieties whereas the dwarfs are available mostly as potted plants. A cluster of tall plants set in beautiful porcelain jars may easily cost a couple of hundred bucks or even more but it is worth every sen as it can last for a long time provided it is well taken care of and skilfully pruned.

In many parts of the world in particular Asia and America, the chrysanthemum is held in high esteem. There are even national chrysanthemum associations and societies for enthusiasts including both professionals and laypeople, to share information and enjoy the fruits of their labour.  

In China, the plant has been cultivated for thousands of years, while in Japan it has been adopted as the national flower of the country.

In Malaysia, chrysanthemums are called ‘kek hwa’ in Malay, ‘Juhua’ in Mandarin, ‘kek hway’ in Hokkien, ‘kok fa’ in Cantonese, and so on.  But Malaysia being such a cosmopolitan nation, most people should have no problem recognising the plant and its flowers even if it has no name. The colours can be so striking and wide-ranging that it is impossible to miss it even in the busiest of flower markets.

Gardening enthusiasts see many reasons for growing the plant as an ornamental.  Firstly, the chrysanthemum is extremely flexible in it needs and it may be grown in beds on the ground, in buckets, trays, plastic pot, bottles or even in discarded tin cans. Then there are great numbers of varieties and cultivars to choose from to meet your requirement. The wide range of colours and size of blooms are also plus factors.

The chrysanthemum is also very easy to grow, surprisingly simple to propagate, and quick to produce bountiful results. Besides, it does not take much in terms of brain, brawn or ringgit to keep the plant well-maintained and healthy for a long time.

If that is the case, then what are you waiting for?  Get cracking, folks!


Different categories of chrysanthemums

The many different varieties of chrysanthemums and the numerous cultivars in existence may conveniently be grouped into several distinct categories, based on the characteristics of the blooms.

1.    Semi-pompons and Pompons – these flowers range from small to medium size and are of the double type.  Pompon flowers are named after the bushy stuff that old men and women use when cheering on their favourite teams in a frenzy of screaming, yelling and croaking, but they are usually outdone by the presence of a few pretty lady cheer leaders.

2.    Single – flowers of the single type can be said to be one of the simplest forms.  They are daisy-like, and the florets which look like modified petals, radiate outwards from a central circular disc.

3    Spray – many flowers may be produced on each stem and they may be single or double type.  Flowers of such an arrangement are also often referred to as a cluster or truss.

4.    Anemone – these are single flowers and are daisy-like.

5.    Incurved – such flowers appear to be globular in shape because the petal-like florets are tightly packed and tend to curve inwards.  This is one of the most popular varieties.

6.    Reflexed – this is the complete opposite of the incurved type because the florets are curved outwards to give the bloom an appearance of a shower of petals.

7.    Intermediate – although this is the intermediate between the incurved and the reflexed types, they can be said to be both at the same time, but usually, the top half resembles more an incurve while the bottom is more like the reflexed type.

8.    Spidery – such flowers have long leggy petal-like structures that radiate outwards, much like the legs of a spider.

However, flowers of the dwarf chrysanthemum are mostly of the single, spray, anemone or semi-pompon types, although the pompons and other types can also be found.  But the single, most attractive character of the dwarfs is that the blooms are produced often in very large clusters with huge numbers of small colourful flowers each of size 1-2cm in diameter.  

In fact, the size of the spray is often larger than the size of the plant on which it grows. Even when the growth of the plant is restricted to a 10cm pot, the dwarf chrysanthemum is still able to produce large trusses of flowers at a height of 15 cm.

This feature contributes most to its attractiveness as a small flowering ornamental plant which is why dwarfs are always popular with any gardening enthusiast.  Moreover, its small size makes it unobstructive while at the same time, easy and light enough to handle.


Planting dwarf chrysanthemums

Growing dwarf chrysanthemums, or any chrysanthemums for that matter, is a most simple, flexible and enjoyable task.  They can be grown on the ground, or they can do just as well in pots.  Some people even use discarded pails, wooden boxes, cooking pots or rusty tin cans and large plastic bottles to grow them.  The result is no less wonderful.  

The plant may also be grown indoors with some partial or diffused sunlight.  An overly dim condition may not sustain your lovely plant for long and as such, it is necessary to ensure openings are available to allow for fairly good light to flood in.  The alternative is to move the plant on a regular basis to ensure it receives sufficient light for its photosynthetic activity.

Chrysanthemums are very greedy feeders and they therefore require a lot of fertilisation or manuring before planting can begin.  This does not mean there will be complete failure without the initial soil enrichment except that the plants that grow up may be more scrawny, spindly and sickly.  

Therefore, to grow good plants, it is necessary to provide good soil.  This is quite similar to trying to hook up good fish in the river by using good bait in the hope of securing a good catch.  A smelly stinking piece of bait may entice nothing but floating trash.

Therefore, anyone growing chrysanthemums should never stinge on the application of manure and fertiliser as the plants will quickly show negative results in the form of stunted growth, small and poorly formed flowers, miserable leaves, etc. 

Once the soil is ready, the planting material should also be ready.  If old plants are available, it is easy to remove one or two young suckers with independent roots to start the new planting.  This is done by using a knife of a pair of secateurs to sever and separate the suckers and then planting them into pots or on soil beds.  Make sure they are regularly watered well,

Normally, a 30cm pot may be able to take three to five dwarfs to maturity without resulting in any decline in flower quality.  On soil beds, dwarfs should be spaced about 15-20cm from each other.  When the blooms are produced, entire beds can become covered with flowers, and the effect can be quite spectacular especially if it is planted in large swathes.


Propagation of chrysanthemums

Suckers or basal shoots can be easily removed from a parent plant to multiply more plants.  The roughshod way is to tear, strip, break, snap or pull away the part that is wanted but a neat and professional way is to use simple but appropriate tools to make clean cuts without injuring more than necessary or even killing the parent plant.  

Taking parts from any parent plant is a form of plant propagation which is also known as vegetative propagation.  It is an easy way to start new independently growing plants without having to dig into your wallets or your bank account. In this way, vegetative propagation also means helping to prevent the depletion of whatever ringgit that is left.

But the most common method, which is also vegetative propagation, is to multiply the desired plants by the use of cuttings, which is applicable with most varieties of garden plants.  This method is widely used by both nursery people and gardening enthusiasts alike, including many kampung folks who live in the rural areas.  

Usually, the terminal parts of basal shoots are severed and then cut into sections at 10-15cm length.  It may or may not be necessary to treat cut ends with rooting powder to enhance the rooting process, but generally, with a good rooting medium and a cool, shady and humid condition, it is possible to obtain 100pc success rate.  This means saving a few more ringgit to buy a few more cuppas or bottles.

With some varieties, the first roots should start to appear within one to two weeks while some other varieties taking slightly longer.  

If the cuttings are inserted into small pots or polybags, the roots should start to appear at the drainage and aeration holes, with new leaves beginning to sprout.  After two to three more weeks, the plant should be firm enough to be transplanted into larger pots or onto planting beds.

So it is time now to bask in the limelight of your success.

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