While mums (chrysanthemum) are a popular in the late summer and fall thanks to their ability to withstand temperature changes and their variety of colors, cascade mums can add a whole new layer of creativity and beauty to a garden.
Growing these beautiful blooms does require quite a bit of planning and the right tools, but the results are stunning.
In this Article:
What is a Cascade Mum?
Simply put, cascade mums are mums.
There’s not a specific species of mums that are naturally cascading. Rather, it’s up to the gardener to train their mums to create that gorgeous waterfall illusion.
Mums themselves have been a favorite of gardeners for over 3,500 years, originating in the far east and carrying an exceptional significance within Japanese culture.
Since the 12th century, a chrysanthemum was the Imperial Seal of the Japan only to be used by the Emperor and his family. This chrysanthemum displays a 16-petalled flower with the tips of 16 additional petals that lie underneath.
The Chrysanthemum Throne is also the term for the seat of power in Japan, as well as the physical ceremonial throne that the Emperor sits upon.
The chrysanthemum‘s popularity reaches beyond the palace walls with many gardens and towns in Japan holding festivals around and including the flowering herbaceous perennial.
How to Grow Cascade Mums
Cascade mums are trained to grow in a cascading fashion in the greenhouse of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Photos by Nathan Kwarta/Missouri Botanical Garden.
As mentioned above, when it comes to cascade mums, it’s more about nurture than nature.
At the Missouri Botanical Garden, our expert horticulturalists grow cascade mums in pots like any other mum, but they attach a flat mesh rack to the pot and orient it at an angle roughly perpendicular to the sun. As the mum grows, the supple new growth is trained with small clips across the mesh, forcing it to grow horizontally at first.
To keep the cascade short, periodically the growth is pinched back so that it does not become too tall. When ready to be displayed, they are placed in baskets and attached to the wall. The growing racks are then bent down so what was growing horizontally is now “cascading” out of the pot like a waterfall.
Our horticulturalist display includes a variety of single stem mums alongside the cascade mums. This selection of plants are chosen for their ability to be trained as a single stem and grow a single large flower. Throughout the growing season they also are pinched back to a single stem and all lateral growth is suppressed. This produces a plant with a single stem and one flower atop.
Below, you can find a helpful guide to what items you’ll need to train your own cascade mums as well as a schedule for raising mums all the way from stem cutting to their full cascading beauty. Learn more about caring for mums on our website.
What you’ll need to grow cascade mums
- Snips of stock plants
- 4-inch pots, 10-inch finishing pots, baskets
- Plastic cover
- Flat mesh rack or wire frame
- Rooting soil mix of 50% sand and 50% peat
- Soluble household fertilizer
- Houseplant mix of peat and perlite
Step-by-step guide to growing cascade mums
- In early February, snip off 3 to 4-inch long tips of the stems from stock plants and insert 1 to 2 inches of the stem into a rooting soil mix of 50 percent sand and 50 percent peat.
- For 2 to 3 weeks, keep the cutting continuously moist until the rooting has completed. A plastic cover over the rooting container may prevent the cutting from drying out.
- For 6 more weeks, transfer the rooted cuttings to 4-inch pots and hold under continuous light. Fertilize on a regular schedule with a soluble household fertilizer. At this time the cuttings should be about 10 to 14 inches tall.
- Transplant 2 or 3 cuttings to a 10-inch finishing pot with a good houseplant mix of peat and perlite. Immediately give a soft pinch by removing 2 inches of the terminal growth.
- Keep cuttings under light until mid-April. This is the point in the season that the days are long enough to keep the plants from setting bud.
- Attach a flat mesh rack to the pot and orient it at an angle roughly perpendicular to the sun. As the mum grows, this will train the supple new growth with small clips across the mesh, forcing it to grow horizontally instead of vertically.
- To keep the cascade short, periodically pinch back the growth is pinched back so not become too tall. For every 4 inches of growth produced, remove about 2 inches of the stem. Reestablish the terminal shoot by selecting and tying up laterals to the mesh rack.
- When the frame has become filled, begin to shear the plants by removing all terminal growth and leaving 2 to 3 leaf nodes on each terminal. Stop shearing around July 15th so that the plant will begin to set buds.
- It takes about 90 more days until the plants will begin to bloom. This means approximately mid-October depending upon the cultivar selection.
Helpful tip: Make your mums bloom earlier by limiting light exposure. The setting and blooming of mums are dictated by light conditions, so reduced amount of sun in the fall triggers hormonal changes in the plant to start producing flowers. This quality can be manipulated to force the plants to produce blooms sooner or later than in natural conditions.
Common Problems & Solutions for Cascade Mums
A number of diseases plague chrysanthemums. Avoiding overcrowded and shaded conditions will help in reducing the incidence of disease because under such conditions, moisture is likely to remain on the leaves providing good conditions for diseases to get started.
Septoria Leaf Spot
Where to See Cascade Mums at the Missouri Botanical Garden?
Our cascade mums will make their seasonal debut within the coming weeks (late September to October).
Our horticulturalists display the cascade mums along the wall of the Pring Dry Garden in the Japanese Garden. The Pring Dry Garden is located on the southwestern side of the Japanese Garden, between the Yatsuhashi zig-zag bridge and the pebbled beach.
The Pring Dry Garden is dedicated to George Pring who worked at the Garden for 63 years while living on campus in a house where the Japanese Garden office is located today. He was renowned for his work in water lily breeding and identification, and he has sometimes been called the father of tropical water lilies.
Enjoy Other Mums at the Garden
While the cascade mums are a site to behold, there are several places throughout the Garden to enjoy bright and colorful mums. Here are a few places to keep an eye out for chrysanthemums outside of the Japanese Garden:
- The William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening
- The Lehmann Rose Garden
- The Gladney Rose Garden
Photos by Tom Incrocci / Missouri Botanical Garden.
Public Information Officer
Many thanks to Garden horticulturists Heather Moon and Daniel Schachner; Horticulture Manager, Benjamin Chu; Senior Nursery Manager, Derek Lyle; living collection data specialist Brittany Shultz; and ethnobotanist Aurora Prehn for the expert information provided.