For autumn color, chrysanthemums are showstoppers. They're the first choice of proud moms for homecoming corsages; their exquisite forms draw thousands to flower shows; and in the fall, they dominate prime counter space at garden centers.
Related to sunflowers, dahlias, marigolds and even lettuce, mums belong to the vast Asteraceae (formerly Compositae) family, which comprises more than 20,000 species. While many mums share basic characteristics with other flowers in that family — a circlet of ray flowers around a button of disk flowers — mum genetics have engendered some astonishing offspring, from 1-inch powder puffs to 12-inch “spiders” to globular “football” mums. The National Chrysanthemum Society defines 13 “classes” for mums, based on the growth pattern and shape of their florets.