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Pests of Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums are a wonderful addition to the fall garden but when purchasing your mums, make sure to select the correct kind.  Believe it or not, not all mums are the same.  There are two different types of mums you can find out in stores.  The first one is referred to as a “floral mum.”  These are mums you see sitting around fresh flowers and arrangements.  While they are beautiful, they really are not suited for the landscape.   Instead, this type of mum is actually grown for just indoor use.  On the other hand, if you are looking for a chrysanthemum for your landscaping, choose a garden mum.

Now that you have chosen your mum, the next step is to get it into the ground.  But prior to doing this, you will first need to find the best location.  Mums that are planted as annuals in the fall do best when they are place in an area that receives some shade.  Beyond this requirement, mums only require a well-draining soil.  Once these two requirements have been met, you are ready to plant.

The first step of this process is to prepare the ground.  If the area is new, remove the sod or other plant material.  If it is an established garden space, begin the planting process by digging a hole that is twice the width of the container and the same depth.  Once the hole is dug, gently squeeze the container, tip upside down and allow the plant to fall into your hand.  Next, gently tease the roots or loosen the root ball and place the plant into the hole.  Fill in the hole with the removed soil and water in.  Add additional soil as needed.

To keep your chrysanthemum looking its best, keep the area moist but not wet.  Also, to keep many of the plant diseases that attack mums at bay, only water the soil.  Avoid getting the vegetation and flowers wet when possible. 

While mums are generally pest free, they do have some problems.  Below is a list of pests that you can expect to see on your chrysanthemums.  If you do find that you have a pest on your plant, give one of the organic controls a try that are listed with each pest.

Spider Mite

To tell if you have spider mites on your mums will require you to pull out a magnifying glass.  Turn over the leaves and look at the surface with your magnifying glass.  If you see tiny, eight legged creatures under the leaf then you have spider mites. 

While these creatures are small, they can cause a lot of damage.  How do they damage the plant?  Well, they suck on the leaves and cause them to die.  While a small population is not really a problem, larger groups can cause the plant to lose its leaves.

If you find that your mums have spider mites, do not worry.  There are two simple things that you can do to help your plant survive an attack and to get rid of them.  The first thing to do is to reduce the stress that your mum plant may be under.  How do you reduce the stress?  Well, one of the biggest stressors of plant is water.  Not having the correct amount of water can make your plant weak and less able to fight off an attack.  To aid your mum, make sure that your plant is receiving enough moisture to keep the soil evenly moist.

The second approach is to allow Mother Nature take care of the problem.  Spider mites have many garden enemies and just releasing some can allow the problem to resolve itself.  The best insect to release to take care of spider mites is the sixspotted thrips.  Keep in mind though, when using this approach avoid using any chemicals.


Believe it or not, mums are very often attacked by aphids.  What makes this attack so interesting is that there are several different types of aphids that feed on chrysanthemums.  They nibble on the leaves and tender shoots of the plant.  In small numbers, the damage is not really noticed but in larger numbers you will begin to see yellowing of the leaves and shoot death. 

While the feeding issue is a problem, the other concern that comes about when one is talking about aphids is disease.  Aphids carry several different types of viruses.  As they move from one plant to another so does the plant disease.

When it comes to organic control of aphids, there are two general approaches.  The first approach is to release predatory insects into the environment.  One of the best insects to release is the lady beetle.  The second approach is to deal with ants.  Ants take care of aphids.  If the ants are eliminated, the aphids will die.


If you find a cottony mass on the stems and/or leaves of your mum then you properly have mealybugs.  What makes this pest such a problem is two-fold.  First, this pest feeds on leaves and stem of the plant.  If there are enough of the mealybugs, the plant will respond by dropping damaged leaves. 

The second issue with the mealybugs is the fact that they produce honeydew.  Honeydew is a sweet tasting waste product that the mealybugs produce.  The honeydew itself, in turn, is the base by which back sooty mold can grow on.

When it comes to control, the first thing is to control the ants as in the aphids.  The next approach is to release beneficial insects into the environment.  Both of these approaches will quickly take care of the problem.


This is an insect that you may not see.  Why is this?  Well, the reason is that this pest feeds at night and hides during the day.  But how can you tell if you have weevils?  The plant will tell you.  Adult weevils feed on the leaves of mums.  The damage will appear as a notch on the leaf and/or the leaf itself may be removed from the twig.  While this is bad enough, the adults really do not do that much damage.  The really damage comes from the larvae. 

In the case of the mum, the larvae will eat the root hairs of the plant.  With enough chewing, the chrysanthemum will die. 

There are two approaches to control when it comes to weevils.  First, release parasitic nematodes into the environment.  These nematodes will feed on the larvae and pupae.  The second approach is to place tarpaper collar around the base of the mum.  Once that is done, paint the tarpaper with a sticky substance that traps insects.  As the adults climb around they will be trapped on the treated tarpaper and die. 

While chrysanthemums are pretty much pest-free, there are still a few pests that love to feed on mums.  The best approach when it comes to treating this issue is to know your plant material and address problems when they arise.  Following this simple step will keep your mum looking its best while allowing you to deal with problems before they get out of hand.  Just remember that many of the organic solutions required one to release beneficial insects.  When following this plan, avoid using any type of chemical control.



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Lady Beetles

Commonly known as Lady Bugs, eat aphids, mealybugs and many different types of insect eggs.

If you want to use them as beneficials in your garden, release them at night, or keep them in their wire topped containers for a day or so before release.

Either technique will help keep them in the area, and working on your specific insect problems, instead of just flying away.

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