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Pansies are one the gardening world's most popular flowers. And there is no doubt
why: these early spring wonders are spectacular bloomers. Pansies are members of
the violet family, and native to Europe. We're ever so grateful that Europeans didn't
keep pansies to themselves.
Perhaps best of all, popular Pansies easy to grow. That's why home gardeners and
professionals allot generous amounts of garden and flowerbed space to pansies. They
also look great in windowsill planters, and containers on patios and decks.
Pansies are grown from seeds. Pansies can be directly seeded into your flower garden.
However, we recommend an early indoor start to achieve the earliest blooms in the
Start indoor transplants six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area. Seeds
germinate slowly, usually in 10 to 20 days.
Pansies like full to partial sun. They prefer cool to warm climates, and wilt in
mid-summer heat. In the south, they are often grown in the winter, while the weather
They tolerate a variety of soils. But, soil should be loose and hold moisture. The
plants need plenty of moisture to fuel their fast growth. Add a general purpose fertilizer
at planting time.
Sow seeds early in the season, and cover lightly with 1/8" soil, then water thoroughly
Transplant pansies into your garden after the last frost date for your area. Space
them 6" apart. They will tolerate crowding. Planning your pansy bed is important.
A well laid out design looks stunning when in full bloom. Pansies respond well to
regular deadheading. As often as possible, pinch off spent blooms. This will encourage
new flowers, and extend the blooming period.
Established pansies should grow well, even with little care. Keep soil moist at all
times. Add mulch to retain moisture.
Fertility aids vigorous bloom. If you apply a mild fertilizer at fall planting and
every four to five weeks in spring, it will ensure good nutrition for the pansies.
Heat causes pansies to become leggy and lose most of their bloom. So when summer
warmth begins to get the upper hand, go ahead and remove pansies to make way for your
Insect and disease problems are infrequent. Slugs are the most common problem. Use
slug and snail pellets as needed. Aphids can be an occasional problem. Apply insecticides
or fungicides only as needed.
Plant as early as possible, the more established the plants are, the better they’ll
be able to withstand cold, desiccating winter conditions. That means planting in
September; if possible, however, October is acceptable. Healthy plants establish
more quickly, rapidly growing the root system that’s so critical to winter hardiness.
Generally, varieties with medium size flowers over winter better than large-flowered
types, but there are several exceptions. In any case, obtaining the very hardiest
cultivars is only a concern in northern areas such as Zone 4 and 5.
Pansies are susceptible to saturated soil. They have been known to over winter successfully,
only to succumb to excessive moisture as the winter’s snow and ice begin to melt.
Be sure they are growing in a well-drained location.
A technique gaining in popularity is to plant spring blooming bulbs in fall in the
usual fashion, and then install pansies in the same bed, right over the bulbs. The
bulbs will emerge and bloom, providing additional color while the bulb foliage ripens.
This is great way to get more color from your beds until it’s time to plant summer
Pansies are Viola hybrids, officially known as Viola x wittrockiana, with a complex ancestry that includes several species. They’re short-lived perennials
but are used as annuals most commonly. Similar to pansies and offered in garden centers
at the same time are Johnny jump-ups (Viola tricolor) and Viola “Jackanapes”. Both of these have hardiness similar to pansies.
Pansies come in Series that offer the same plant and flower characteristics but in
a variety of bloom colors. This gives you great flexibility in working with flower
color because you can buy individual colors of a Series, if you wish or a mix of colors
from the same Series.
Pansies don’t have a long shelf life in packs. They stretch out quickly, and once
they do, they’ll never do as well when planted. Garden centers often sell old, stretched
out plants at a discount, but resist the temptation to buy them. Healthy pansies
are compact, exhibit minimal leaf yellowing and probably show fewer blooms while in
the packs because they’re younger plants. Despite the lack of color at the time of
purchase, these are the plants you want. When you find packs that look good, pop
a few plants out and look at the roots, they should be white, not brown, and should
be well developed throughout the soil plug.
By Sherri Sanders County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture