Photos courtesy of Syngenta Flowers

Growers have a lot of choices with their mum program. Syngenta Flowers offers over 200 varieties of chrysanthemums, from garden mums to pot mums – it’s a very broad program. The company is able to offer mums for the entire production and growing season, both black-cloth and natural season, in colors ranging from the more common yellows and golds to more exotic colors like lavender and coral. “Our assortment is broad for a reason,” says Kent Carrell, senior product manager for Syngenta Flowers. “We probably have a mum for every need, and therefore, we work closely with our customers to build the optimal assortment that meets their particular conditions and requirements.”

For instance, Syngenta currently offers more than 10 yellow mums. If you think, “That seems like a lot,” well, consider why this is. The differences across these varieties can be vital to the success of the program.

“A grower in a certain part of the country might struggle with the production of yellow across the many weeks of his program,” Carrell says. “We have built our assortment so the grower has the options that are necessary to be successful, and it is our job to help guide them on where these varieties fit in order to meet a special need or issue they are trying to solve.”

A key way that Syngenta can help a grower focus its mum program is to start by selecting from the key mum families. Many breeders offer plants that are bred as series, such as petunias. Carrell says mum families are much better than a “series” as they are from the same genetic base, and therefore more truly matched.

“The difference in the series and the family is that the mum family means it is a genetically identical plant,” Carrell says. “The color difference comes from a sport out of the breeding, but the genetics of the plant are virtually equal.”

With all members of a family coming from the same genetic base, the grower can expect several advantages. Consistency across the colors is a major concern for growers and retailers alike, and it succeeds admirably in the mum families. Growers can also expect similar flowering response, plant vigor, and plant habit no matter what conditions the mums are grown in.

Carrell believes the uniformity and simplicity of the mum family will lead to more growers staying within the family going forward.

“A family of mums means the best uniformity and consistency possible because they are genetically alike, instead of selecting for similar habits like a lot of series collections do,” he says. “If you buy into the family, you should expect very consistent results.”

If a particular family does not meet the complete needs of the grower’s production, then Syngenta will work closely in selecting the individual varieties that most closely complements the family and completes the assortment.

Uniformity through genetics and trials

That level of consistency doesn’t come easily. Syngenta’s mums have been able to achieve uniformity through the hard work of the breeding program and relentless trials. Genetics are selected to fit North American climates and to simplify production. The company trials its varieties with standard cultural practices which allows them to easily fit into growers’ established production programs. Retailers appreciate these mums because of their long shelf life, less shrink, and endurance from greenhouse to retail.

Syngenta rigorously trials its mums throughout North America to provide the information growers need to make the best selections for their region. This takes the guess work out of growing mums and enables growers to produce a crop with no surprises.

Currently, the company has nine mum families within its mum program. These families are bred to fit certain windows of production times for both black cloth production and natural season flowering all through the mum season.

They progress through the spectrum of all the weeks of production, from “very early,” which is categorized as mid-September and earlier, to late season that can go to the end of October.

Some families are designed to fit the very early weeks of production perfectly. Carrell and the rest of the Syngenta team is excited for the 2017 introduction of two new families, including the latest natural season flowering family in the assortment. The “Rhonda” family is a late season-extender, and its main calling card is that it is frost-tolerant. That is especially important for a late-season extender with a natural season response of late October. It’s a full-color family, available in bronze, pink, purple, red, white and yellow.

“You get the added benefit of a mum that can still take the frost late into the season and still hold its color and its blooms,” Carrell says. “With a lot of mums, a frost can damage them and the blooms will die out. So we are breeding to overcome issues like that.”

“Nikki” is another frost-tolerant family that can flower in natural season as late as mid-October. It’s available in three colors, yellow, orange and dark pink, and does well in combinations.

Color and combos

Syngenta is devoting much of its breeding efforts into color. Carrell says the breeders are looking for more intense color that holds up and doesn’t fade.

“A lot of mums look great when they’re first produced, but how about when they leave the greenhouse?” Carrell says. These are the type of questions his breeders ask. How do the plants do once they’re out in the natural environment? Even if they are natural season produced, how well do they hold up once they are in flower? How well does that color hold?

“We’re putting a lot of breeding efforts into making sure that color stays strong all the way through the season,” he says.

The key to success with Syngenta’s collection of garden mums is to build combinations using the mum families. Carrell says growers can create easy and reliable combos because any of the colors within a family can work together.

Families are matched for flower timing, plant shape and finished plant size. They will work together when matching colors for blackcloth or natural season crops. In some cases, stand-alone varieties can also be matched with families to create appealing color effects.

“One of the strengths of the mum families is the development of a robust mum combination program,” Carrell says. “We mix colors together for a patio container or something else with mixed colors. Families do very well in those because of their consistency. It can add a lot of punch to a retail program or a garden center that wants to offer something different.”

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations. Trial different combinations to find one that has consumer appeal in your area, or contact a Syngenta technical service representative to determine which pairing will perform best in your conditions.