The Biggest Differences Between Mums And Asters

The Biggest Differences Between Mums And Asters

Both mums and asters are popular for decorating fall porches, and they may look similar, but are they related? Chrysanthemums, commonly known as mums, are part of the Aster family, formally called Asteraceae. However, asters and mums are not the same thing, even though they belong to the same family. The main differences between them are their appearances, with mums having warmer colors and a more neat shape while asters come in cooler colors and have a more unruly appearance. They also differ in flower height and their USDA hardiness zones.

Both mums and asters need sunlight to thrive and flower during the shorter days of fall. Putting them in a shady area may cause their blooms to wither, but a sunny spot will showcase their colors. Their leaves look similar, and they both have stiff stems. However, there are differences in their specific needs that should be noted.

Chrysanthemums have more variety

Mums growin in pots

Elaine Davis/Shutterstock

As a subset of the aster family, mums include more than 200 species, and they come in a variety of colors that work perfectly for fall decorating. So, whether you favor flowers in a neutral like white or in a warmer tone of autumn like red, orange, bronze, or yellow, there’s a mum for you. However, not all mums look alike, since there are 13 different types of blooms. These range from the popular pompom and button types to cushion and spider varieties. Further, their heights can vary from 1 to 5 feet.

While mums are often grown in containers and used in porch displays with pumpkins and scarecrows, they can also be incorporated into landscaping when planted in the ground. They are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9, so they can grow in warmer climates. They typically like moist soil that drains well, and fertilizing them at least once in the spring or summer will support their showy blooms that appear in the fall.

Asters can grow in colder climates

Butterfly on pink aster flowers


Asters, which also bloom in the late summer and early fall, come in less color options that include cool tones of lavender and pink as well as white. They often have a yellow center, something mums do not have. As potted plants, they can be mixed in with mums in autumn hues to add a complementary color to porch decorating and fall container gardens. Just like mums, they can also be cut and used in indoor flower arrangements. However, these flowers have a slightly different height range, as they can grow from ½ a foot to 6 feet tall.

Asters can also be used as landscaping plants that provide greenery in the spring and summer and showy flowers in the fall. They aren’t quite as prolific as mums in terms of variety but still boast more than 175 species that grow in the United States. They are hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8, so they can be planted in most states including some of the colder regions. They also like moist soil that drains well, and they need at least six hours of sun per day. By selecting asters or mums — or a variety of both — you’ll have lovely blooms all around your home each autumn.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.