Pansies are one of the most popular and recognizable cool weather annuals. Breeding has produced pansies that are better able to stand up to the cold, but there hasn’t been much luck producing more heat tolerant varieties. Many pansies are bi-coloured, making them striking plants for their small size and their ‘faces’ follow the sun throughout the daytime. Although they look delicate, pansies are surprisingly hardy and like their cousins the violas and violets, the flowers are edible.
As compact, low growers, pansies are ideal for edging and for squeezing between rock walls and paths. They’re a great choice for early and late season containers and baskets and complement spring flowering bulbs, flowering as the bulb foliage begins to fade. If you like the variety of colours but still want a sense of cohesion, select plants from the same series as they’ll be similar in size and markings, regardless of the colour.
CHOOSING PANSY PLANTS:
When buying plants, choose pansies that are stocky, bushy and have plenty of buds waiting to open. Avoid plants full of open blooms, because they will be stressed to near exhaustion from working so hard in a tiny pot.
Although pansies are not fussy plants, they will grow best in a loose, rich soil with a slightly acid pH (6.0 – 6.2).
Pansies flower best in full sun and will get spindly in deep shade. Some gardeners say that pansies do not like heat at all and will begin to decline as the days warm up but I always plant them in very early spring and keep them right through until the snow flies.
Shearing the plants back to ~3â€ when mid-summer approaches (late June, early July), will encourage new growth that will carry the plants right through the summer and autumn. Consistent dead-heading of the spent bloom and its stem will encourage more growth and more blooms. Pansies will often re-seed themselves in your planter pots and garden when the seed pod that develops after the blooms fall bursts, allowing the seeds to drop and germinate. This newly-sprouted plant will also grow quickly and last well into the late fall when the snow starts to fly and all other annuals have been long-ago tossed into the compost heap.
As with any long-blooming annual, pansies appreciate regular fertilizing. However, watch that you don’t give too much food as it will just make them leggy and not as appealing in a planter or basket. They respond well to monthly foliar feeding with a water-soluble 15-30-15 fertilizer blend.
Pansies are one of the most versatile and tolerant plants that we can place in our gardens and containers and they continue to be one of my most favourite flowers. Their sunny ‘faces’ bring a blast of cheery colour in early springtime as we await summers’ perennial gardens to begin their annual showing.