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September 28, 2019 – Published in Design & Decor Autumn 2019 issue

Chrysanthemums – the symbol of Autumn

Words Victoria Galea

The chrysanthemum is a very particular flower. Derived from the Greek words for gold – chrysos – and for flower – anthemon, it symbolises much to many.

As it flowers in autumn, in Malta and several other European countries, it is popular in bouquets placed on the graves of the dearly departed in November. This has given it the gloomy connotations of grief to many. However, its aesthetic grace and beauty make it one of the most popular flowers in the world after the rose, and a cheerful symbol of happiness, joy, optimism, fidelity and more, often linked to the flower’s colour.


The chrysanthemum symbolizes the autumn season in Japan, but it goes beyond that. The chrysanthemum is much more than that, it is a symbol of the country itself and every year there is a National Chrysanthemum Day which is also referred to as the Festival of Happiness.

The monarchy is referred to as the Chrysanthemum Throne and the Imperial crest is a stylized chrysanthemum blossom. That seal is embossed on Japanese passports. The flower is also a common motif in art, and it is seen in everyday life depicted on the ¥50 coin.

In Japan the chrysanthemum is a symbol representing longevity and rejuvenation. Originally introduced from China, the flower brought with it a legend about longevity, involving the story of a town where residents all lived to beyond 100 years of age, and where the water came from a mountain spring surrounded by chrysanthemums.


In China the chrysanthemum also represents the season of autumn and is considered symbolic of grace and nobility. The chrysanthemum is a unique symbol in Chinese culture and has many meanings.

The chrysanthemum blooms in bright colours during chilly autumn, a time when most flowers wither. Facing coldness and a tough environment, it blooms splendidly without attempting to compete with other flowers – this unique aspect of the chrysanthemum makes it a symbol of strong vitality and tenacity in the eyes of scholars, inspiring scholars and poets from different dynasties making the chrysanthemum a symbol which represents themselves in their work.

Chrysanthemum flowers have also been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries while chrysanthemum tea is very popular and is used as a relaxant. It is also taken to help relieve head congestion and strengthen the lungs.

The chrysanthemum was first introduced into the western world during the 17th Century.


Today cultivated mainly as potted plants and for cut-flowers, chrysanthemums are available in variety of shapes and sizes and colour.

Chrysanthemums have a bushy-like quality usually growing up to 50cm high, occasionally more, although some of the smaller varieties never reach 25cm. Sometimes there is one flower per stem, while at other times there can be single-bloom plants that grow in clusters.

The most common types of blooms are:

  • Single: Long, daisy-like petals

  • Pompon: Small, firm globe of tight petals - tiny ones are called buttons.

  • Spider: Long tube-shaped petals with curved ends

  • Decorative: Large with many rows of petals, often with petals curling toward the centre

  • Cushion: Aptly named for its medium-sized, cushion-shaped blossom

  • Anemone: Cushion-shaped, but with the centre covered by shorter petals of a darker colour

  • Quill: Tube-shaped petals that are long and straight

  • Spoon: Flatter blossom with rows of spoon-shaped petals.

Chrysanthemum contains a chemical called pyrenthrum, which is known as a natural insecticide and helps naturally repel most insects making it a very appealing flower for the garden.

The cut flowers can survive 2 weeks in a vase, but leaves die much sooner. This is why leaves should be removed from the stem before placing in a vase to ensure longer lifespan.

Chrysanthemums are pretty tough and easy to grow as long as they have a few hours of morning sun and fertile, well-drained soil. They can be propagated from seeds, cuttings or through plant division.

Grown in pots and containers chrysanthemum can be spectacular giving depth and elegance to a landscaped area, especially when grouped, or adding a splash of colour where none exists.

Contact Louis Micallef at Green Supplier Ltd, Flower & Plants Growers, Mdawra Road, Burmarrad. Enquiries: 2157 1428

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