Chrysanthemum Breeding at the University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota's mum breeding program is one of the oldest public sector breeding programs in the world and the only one in North America. Trend-setting breeding endeavors, coupled with the program's germplasm base and genetic resources, continue to bring a wide range of colors and shapes of proven hardy mums to northern gardens.

The cushion habit of mums, a genetic discovery of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station mum breeders, was the basis for the U of M's first plant patent, in 1977, for 'Minngopher.' Plants are dome-shaped, with flowers almost completely covering the outside surfaces of each plant. Previous mums bloomed only at the top of long stems (upright habit). Within a decade, the cushion type became the dominant chrysanthemum plant habit worldwide.

In 1990, breeders inspecting field plantings found seedlings of unprecedented size. Now marketed worldwide as Mammoth™ mums, the plants produce several thousand flowers and grow to three to four feet across in the second season and thereafter.

The University's floral research garners international respect and collaboration. Scientists collected wild mum species near Tibet in western China to add to the germplasm collection. Scientists from Asia study here and bring new breeding techniques back to the place where many of our exotics originated.

Growth Habits

Organce chrysanthemums with a cushion growth habit


Hardy and compact cushion chrysanthemums are hemispherical in shape with flowers almost completely covering the outside surfaces of each plant, like a pincushion.

Height and spread: 12 to 18 inches.

Explore U of M cushion growth habit chrysanthemums

Peach chrysanthemums with an upright growth habit


Traditional long stems with flowers at the top of the plant.

Height and spread: 18 to 24 inches

Explore U of M upright growth habit chrysanthemums

pink chrysanthemums with a shrub growth habit

Shrub Cushion

A shrub plant habit denotes the large plant size each cultivar reaches in the second and successive years of growth but, like the cushion variety, the shrub cushion's surfaces will be completely covered with blooms.

Height and spread: 36 to 48 inches.

Explore U of M shrub cushion growth habit chrysanthemums

white chrysanthemums with a wave growth habit


Flowering plants form mounds, with floral coverage nearly to the ground, giving the effect of snow drifts. Remain shorter and spread wider than other options.

Height and spread: 12" tall x 24" wide.

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Meet the Researcher

Neil Anderson is a Professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science and J. William Fulbright Scholar. As director of the University's Herbaceous Ornamental Breeding Program, Anderson leads a team of scientists working on breeding new varieties of Chrysanthemum, Lilium, Gladiolus, Iris, Linum, Schoenocaulon, and Gaura.

The breeding program focuses on winter-hardy herbaceous perennials with ornamental value as well as research and development on ornamental plant crops which produce natural compounds useful as green pesticides. Anderson is an internationally recognized expert in plant reproductive biology, invasive species biology, geophytes, rapid generation cycling crops, tissue culture, molecular biology, plant breeding and genetics. His research also assess risk to prevent new invasive species from being introduced into the market and causing future problems.