Asters and mums are two types of blooming perennials that bear a striking resemblance to each other, which often causes confusion among home gardeners and floral enthusiasts. Their similarities in appearance – particularly in their daisy-like flowerheads – leads many to ask: are asters and mums the same? While both belong to the expansive Asteraceae family, they are in fact distinct plants with some key differences.
In this article, we’ll unpack the distinction between these two fall-blooming perennials and answer the question “are asters and mums the same?” by exploring their unique plant characteristics, optimal growing conditions, and uses in landscapes and flower arrangements. Learning to properly differentiate asters from mums will empower gardeners to make informed choices when planning what to plant.
At first glance, asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) and chrysanthemums, commonly called mums (Chrysanthemum spp.), appear quite comparable with their cheery daisy-shaped flowers greeting the fall season. However, while they share some visual similarities, asters and mums are in fact distinct plant species. Gardeners often wonder, “are asters and mums the same?” While both belong to the expansive Asteraceae family, asters and mums have key differences in their genetics, optimal growing conditions, bloom times, and uses in the garden and floral designs. To properly identify and care for them, it’s important to understand the answer to the question “are asters and mums the same?”
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Are asters and mums the same?
While asters and mums both belong to the expansive Asteraceae family of flowering plants, they are classified under different genus. Mums belong to the Chrysanthemum genus, while asters fall under the Symphyotrichum genus. This means that despite some visual likeness, mums and asters are genetically distinct. Chrysanthemums originate from East Asia and were brought to Europe and North America, while asters are native to many regions of the northern hemisphere.
There are countless hybrids and cultivars of mums grown today, but some popular garden varieties include Belgian mums, cascade mums, and decorative mums. For asters, some of the most common species are New England asters, New York asters, and aromatic asters. Their divergence on a taxonomic and evolutionary level makes it clear that while mums and asters may look somewhat similar to the untrained eye, they are botanically unique. Understanding these basic genus and species classifications helps answer the prevailing question “are asters and mums the same?”
Appearance and Growth Habit
When observing their physical form, several key differences emerge between asters and chrysanthemums that provide clues to answering “are asters and mums the same?” The flowers of both feature daisy-like shapes with colorful petals blossoming in late summer and fall. However, asters tend to have smaller, more delicate flowers on branched stems, while mum blooms are often larger and may be double or pompom in form.
The foliage also varies, with asters having slender lance-shaped leaves and mums exhibiting broader, dark green leaves. In terms of size, asters reach 1-4 feet tall on average while mums can grow from 1 foot up to 3 feet tall. Asters grow in an upright or vase-shaped habit. Mums are typically low and mounded or spreading. Knowing what to look for when examining their flowers, leaves, height, and growth patterns helps differentiate asters versus mums.
Uses in Gardening
When exploring how to use asters and chrysanthemums in the landscape, some similarities emerge but also key differences that provide design diversity. Both make excellent additions to outdoor containers and flower beds for fall interest. However, asters’ airy quality lends well to naturalized areas and borders around gardens. Their slender stems also make attractive cut flowers. Mums work beautifully in more formal, compact garden beds and patterns.
They also make long-lasting potted plants. Asters attract vital pollinators to the late season garden. Certain species of mums repel pests like ants, flies, and roaches, making them ideal for placement around doorways or seating areas when entertaining outdoors. Their distinct forms and attributes provide versatile options for gardeners who understand that asters and mums, despite the lingering question “are asters and mums the same?”, offer unique benefits tailored to different planting goals and needs.
The Difference Between Asters and Mums
When asters and mums reach peak bloom provides another telling difference between the two plants. Asters begin blooming earlier, starting in late summer and continuing into fall. Different asters species and cultivars extend the floral display into October or even November in some regions. Standard chrysanthemums don’t start blooming until the shorter days and cooler nights of early fall. Breeders have created early blooming mums to start flowering in September, but peak mum season is October into November. You can also read more What do mums look like in the spring.
While their bloom seasons overlap, asters inaugurate fall first, while mums carry the floral show later into the season. Timing their complementary peaks provides ongoing color in the garden and cut flower arrangements. The variation in ideal bloom periods is one more factor that answers “are asters and mums the same?” with a solid no.
In conclusion, while asters and chrysanthemums showcase similar daisy-like flowers that bring cheer to fall gardens, they are distinctly different plants. As members of the Asteraceae family, asters and mums share some comparable attributes but have unique genetic backgrounds, growth habits, optimal growing conditions, and uses in landscaping. Asters bloom earlier in late summer with an airy, upright form that works nicely in borders and naturalized areas. Mums start flowering in early fall and have a bushy, compact growth style ideal for containers and flower beds.
While their flowers may look alike to the untrained eye, a closer examination of the key differences between asters and mums makes it clear these are separate plant species. So the lingering question “are asters and mums the same?” can definitively be answered no – they are related fall-bloomers that complement each other beautifully, but asters and mums have distinctive qualities all their own.