Hardy chrysanthemum: The best hardy chrysanthemums for the garden
Plant expert Jonny Bruce picks late-flowering chrysanthemums that will look perfect in your garden, and gives advice on how to grow them. Photographs by Jason Ingram
The hardy chrysanthemum has suffered from the persistent myth of being a fussy and tender perennial, but in the past 20 years or so, chrysanthemums have been re-established as a mainstay of the autumn garden.
The hardy chrysanthemum is one of the specialities of De Hessenhof, the organic plant nursery which I work for in the Netherlands, which was started almost 40 years ago by Hans Kramer and his wife Miranda.
Chrysanthemums probably reached peak popularity in the UK before the Second World War, largely down to the work of master nurseryman, Amos Perry. At his Hardy Plant Farm in Middlesex, Perry developed many celebrated chrysanthemum cultivars in the inter-war years, some of which are still in cultivation.
The development of the mass-produced all-year-round chrysanthemum, synonymous with forlorn petrol station forecourts offerings, has done little to promote the garden-worthiness of the genus. Modern breeding techniques tend to focus on compactness and bright colours over longevity and many new chrysanthemum cultivars struggle to live up to the garden-worthiness of their older counterparts, but that is beginning to change.
Hardy chrysanthemums are ideal for bringing a pop of colour to the garden when many other flowers are fading. The single varieties provide late nectar for pollinators and make excellent and long lasting cut flowers, too.
Although the RHS has given most a hardiness rating of H4, meaning they are hardy to temperatures of around -5°C to -10°C, the average for a UK winter, I have seen many hardy chrysanthemums survive Dutch winters down to -20°C.
When do hardy chrysanthemums flower?
Hardy chrysanthemums flower in late summer and autumn. The pleasing mass of silvery foliage is an excellent foil for other plants earlier in the year and as the frosts begin to nip there are few flowers for which a gardener can feel so grateful.
Where to plant hardy chrysanthemums
Most chrysanthemums are well suited to a sunny border and are adaptable to a range of soils – although they prefer not to sit wet during the winter and resent drying out in the summer. A good feed of organic fertiliser in spring and a mulch layer to retain moisture will set a chrysanthemum up for the rest of the year.
When to plant hardy chrysanthemums
Rooted cuttings or young plants become available in spring, often online or via mail order. They need to be grown on in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill until they are large enough to plant out in spring, after any risk of frost has passed.
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You can buy established young plants in early to mid-summer. These can be planted straight into borders and pots and will flower later in the season.
Mature plants in flower are available at garden centres in late summer and early autumn for instant impact in a border.
Don't miss our guide on how to propagate chrysanthemums.
How to care for hardy chrysanthemums
Mulch after planting with well rotted compost or manure.
Ensure that the soil doesn't dry out around your chrysanthemum plants – but don't let it become waterlogged, as chrysanthemums do not enjoy sitting in waterlogged soil.
In early summer, pinch out or 'stop' your chrysanthemums to encourage them to branch out and produce lots of flowers. Once they've reached around 20cm tall, remove the main growing point; you can also do the same to the tips of the sideshoots.
Feed regularly with a liquid fertiliser from late spring until the buds appear.
Mulch in autumn to protect the roots over winter.
Hardy chrysanthemums to grow
A glorious, almost dahlia-like bloom of blood red chrysanthemum. A vigorous plant with fully double flowers that remain somewhat exposed in the centre. This chrysanthemum cultivar name translates as ‘focal point’ and, with its tall yet sturdy stems, that is something it certainly provides among the browns of autumn. 80cm.
Chrysanthemum ‘Coup de Soleil’
A wonderful and long-lived chrysanthemum selection from French nurseryman Thierry Delabroye. Large, half-double flowers of bronzy orange, fading to a warm yellow at the base and tip of each petal appear in September and last until November. 70cm.
Introduced in 1974, this chrysanthemum's name translates as ‘little bee’, which perfectly describes the golden yellow pompoms marked with a reddish brown heart in September. This cultivar performed well in German perennial trials with its compact and very branching habit. 70cm.
Chrysanthemum ‘Dernier Soleil’
An old French chrysanthemum cultivar that came to De Hessenhof via a Belgian plant fair. The soft apricot-orange petals fading to a warm yellow heart are deserving of its name. This extremely long-flowering cultivar can produce blooms as early as the beginning of August and will continue to the frosts. 80cm.
Chrysanthemum ‘Dixter Orange’
Fergus Garrett, head gardener of Great Dixter, brought this cultivar to De Hessenhof as a gift. Much admired for its persistent double blooms of glorious, rusty orange produced on tall stems. A very traditional garden chrysanthemum that has survived the hardest of winters. 80cm.
A strong, double red chrysanthemum with smallish flowers about 4cm across. These are held on sturdy stems and were well received at the German perennial trials. This cardinal red makes a big impact among blue asters and the browns of the fading blooms of ornamental grasses. September to October. 70cm.
A relatively new chrysanthemum release from Eugen Schleipfer in 2015, with nearly spherical, double flowers of intense red edged with golden yellow. The name means pomegranate and each petal ends in a distinctive point. Reportedly extremely hardy but yet to be tested at De Hessenhof. 60cm.
Chrysanthemum ‘Bronze Elegance’
A sport of the pink Chrysanthemum ‘Mei-Kyo’ whose complex, bronze pompoms, a couple of centimetres across, smother well-branched and sturdy plants.
80cm. AGM. RHS H4.
Discovered high in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains by nurseryman Wolfgang Kautz, this creamy-white, cultivar has helped reignite interest in hardy chrysanthemums. 60cm.
Chrysanthemum ‘Jolie Rose’
Another good pink chrysanthemum but with semi-double blooms and a white halo in the centre. A sturdy perennial with tidy green foliage, which holds on to its flowers late in November. 60-70cm.
A fantastic single chrysanthemum with deep petals. Compact but benefits from pinching out in June to provide an even denser display from October to November. 40-60cm.
Chrysanthemum ‘La Damoiselle’
An unusual pale pink chrysanthemum for so late in the year it produces large flowers on a branching, compact plant. October to November. 60cm. RHS H4.
Chrysanthemum ‘Ruth Treff’
A bright-yellow single – sometimes producing a double row of petals – introduced by Christian Kress at Sarastro Nursery and named for the woman who sent him the plant from Darmstadt in Germany. Low growing with masses of relatively early flowers. Does well in part shade. August to October. 40-60cm.
• Cotswold Garden
Flowers Sands Lane,
Badsey, Evesham, Worcestershire WR11 7EZ.
Tel 01386 833849, cgf.net
• Daisy Roots
Jenningsbury, London Road, Hertford SG13 7NS.Tel 07958 563355, daisyroots.com
• Halls of Heddon
West Heddon Nursery, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Newcastle upon Tyne NE15 0JS. Tel 01661 852445, hallsofheddon.com
• Kwekerij De Hessenhof
Hessenweg 41, 6718 TC Ede, the Netherlands. Tel +31 (0)318 617 334, hessenhof.nl
• Norwell Nurseries
5 Marstons Cottages Woodhouse Road, Newark on Trent, Nottinghamshire NG23 6JX. Tel 01636 636337, norwellnurseries.co.uk
Jason Ingram is an award winning garden photographer based in Bristol, UK. He travels widely shooting for magazines, book publishers and advertising agencies. He also works with top international garden designers and Landscape Architects on private projects worldwide.
Jonny Bruce is a gardener and writer with an arts background. Having trained in historic gardens he moved into nurseries, learning sustainable growing methods and deepening his plantsmanship which he now applies as a planting design consultant.
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