Chrysanthemums & Dahlias: What’s The Difference?

Our Chrysanthemum Greeting Card shown in the photograph here, is a variation in a beautiful salmon pink colour. You can go straight to the online shop by clicking the name here or by clicking on the picture of the flower at the top of this article.

So, with that said, – chrysanthemums & dahlias: What’s the difference?

Chrysanthemum Greeting Card featuring a salmon-coloured chrysanthemum flower

Chrysanthemums are native to China, where they have been used in medicine and art for thousands of years. With the Silk Road and trade all across Europe and Asia, chrysanthemums have been well known in Europe from earliest times.

Dahlias are native to Mexico, and did not enter the botanical lexicon until the exploration of the New World, that began in the 1500s.

The Dahlia was named in honour of Andreas Dahl (1751–89), a Swedish botanist.

It is, therefore, easy to remember which is the ‘new’ plant. It is the dahlia, named after Andreas Dahl – and dahlia is a girl’s name that means ‘Dahl’s flower’.

What Are The Key Differences?

So what are the key difference in appearance between the two plants? The biggest difference is the leaves. Most chrysanthemums have delicate, lacy looking leaves with many rounded lobes.

Dahlia leaves are ovate, with pointed tips and slightly serrated edges.

Chrysanthemum leaves are an almost dusty-looking, blue-green colour and have a texture to their leaves. Dahlias leaves are glossier.

Chrysanthemum and Dahlia leaves side by side for comparison

Without Sight Of The Leaves It is Difficult To Tell

Without seeing the leaves and the stems it can be very difficult to tell the two apart, at least for some of the varieties. The flower in the photograph here is a chrysanthemum. I know that because I photographed it. And I cropped the photo from the full frame and I have the original photo showing the leaves typical of chrysanthemums. In the absence of that, I might be hard pressed to say whether it is a chrysanthemum or a dahlia.

If I could smell the flower I may well be able to tell the difference. That’s because many chrysanthemums have strong fragrances, while most dahlias do not.

There are very many varieties of both flowers. Chrysanthemums have been cultivated for more than 3,000 years in an unbroken chain through more than five thousand years of cultural history. In Japan there are bonsai chrysanthemums.

I explained about the origin of the name of the ‘new’ plant, the Dahlia, which is not to say that the naming of the plant in its native Mexico counts for nothing. Far from it, and every nation and every culture and community deserves recognition as a valued member of the family of man. I am talking only about the names of the plants as we in England know them.

Which leads us to ask what the origin of the name of the chrysanthemum is – the plant that has been known in Europe since earliest times?

The Origin Of Name Of The Chrysanthemum

The original colour of the chrysanthemum is a golden yellow. We know from the name. That’s because the first part of the name comes from the Ancient Greek word chrysos meaning golden. The end of the word comes from the Greek for flower – ‘anthemon‘.

Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Leaves

And there we have it. In a nutshell, the leaves of the chrysanthemum are many lobed and rounded while the dahlia’s leaves are more like a spear with serrated edges. The chrysanthemum has a fragrance, while dahlias generally do not. And if you cannot see the leaves nor smell the flowers then it can be very difficult to tell the two plants apart.

If you are feeling brave enough or confident enough, what would you say this is?

dahlia flower and leaves

If you are interested in growing either of these flowers, you might want to take a look at this article on growing dahlias.

I bought singles for the reasons I explain in the article. I bought ‘Bishop Of Oxford’, which is described as a single with stunning orange flowers with a dark centre to the flowers and dark foliage. They are said to make good pot plants as well as looking stunning in the border. Loved by bees and butterflies. Height 60-70cm. 

I also bought ‘Bishop Of Dover’, which is described as a lovely free flowering dahlia with white single flowers with a flush of pink, that make a stunning contrast to the dark foliage. They are, apparently, loved by butterflies and bees. Height 60-90 cm.

Update – Chrysanthemum Leaves

I remembered to photograph some chrysanthemum leaves, and here they are.

chrysanthemum leaves

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