Growth and Development of Chrysanthemums
For a few weeks after planting, little change will be seen. The plants’ activity is mostly underground. As well as keeping a close watch for slugs, in built-up areas watch also for birds, which seem to have a week or so of madness when they nip off the tops of the plants and sometimes defoliate them completely.
When growth does start the plants branch rapidly and need tying up. Loop each growth to the central stake every 9 in. or so. Later, they may need tying more securely to prevent the flowers from bruising.
Chrysanthemums can be grown either as bushy plants carrying many small flowers, or as thinner plants with a few much larger and finer blooms. If a chrysanthemum is left to develop naturally it will extend itself on a single stem until, at the growing point, a bud is produced which prevents the stem from growing any longer. This is called the ‘break bud’ because it induces the plant to break out into growth from the leaf axils. The branches from the leaf axils grow until they also produce a bud at the point. This is called the ‘first crown bud’, and is surrounded by leafy shoots. If the plant is left alone these shoots extend as a cluster and, after a few weeks, produce a mass of ‘second crown buds’ which bloom together as a spray of small but pretty flowers. The first crown bud, partly overcome by the strength of the leafy growth round it, struggles into belated bloom in a network of twiggy stems. Many people prefer these sprays of small chrysanthemum flowers in a mixed border.
Even if sprays of this kind are wanted it is advisable to pinch out the growing point and an inch or so of stem below it at a certain stage of growth. This pinching is usually termed ‘stopping’. It causes the plant to branch, encourages late-flowering varieties to bloom rather earlier and thus avoid frosts, and helps to form a nicely balanced plant.
If the aim is to grow fewer but much finer blooms instead of clusters of small flowers, the plant must not only be pinched at the due time, but kept under strict control. Early in its growth reduce the number of stems to not more than six by removing all the others. The plant should then yield only six blooms, for only one will be allowed to form on each stem.
The single bloom is developed from a first crown bud. When this bud appears, usually in late July or early August, remove all the leafy shoots surrounding it, so as to channel the energy of the plant into the flower. But do not remove them all at once; take off one every other day. The plant will then probably send out fresh shoots from almost every leaf axil and will thrust suckers up through the soil. Remove all the fresh shoots and suckers as soon as they are seen. The whole strength of the plant’s growth is thus concentrated into the first crown buds, and so large blooms of fine quality are produced.