Pansies in a pot

How to Plant and Care for Pansies

Frosty weather doesn’t faze resilient pansy blooms. For a single display of spring or fall color, proper planting and general garden care get pansies through one season. But if your climate allows for winter displays, or you’re banking on a repeat spring performance, give pansy plantings some extra TLC:

  • Feeding: Periodic feedings during active growth fuel prolific pansy blooms. Pennington UltraGreen Color Blooms & Plant Food 15-10-10 offers complete, balanced nutrition plus added iron pansies need. Where fall-planted pansies take a winter break, fertilize in fall and again when the ground thaws and spring growth begins.
  • Watering: Consistent moisture keeps pansy blossoms soft and supple, but roots won’t tolerate soggy soil. Water pansies regularly through the growing season, but allow soil to dry slightly between waterings. The drier soil conditions also help pansies harden off and tolerate cold.1
  • Protecting: During flowering season, organic mulch protects soil moisture and discourages weeds. During cold-climate winters, a protective covering of straw safeguards roots against rapid temperature fluctuations and heaving. Apply straw after the ground freezes, and then remove it as soon as snow and ice melt in spring. Don’t be surprised to find pansy buds ready and waiting to burst into blooms.

With pansies added to your garden plans, you can count on cool-weather color that extends the season and your enjoyment. Pennington and the Pennington email newsletter are here to help you learn and grow, so you can enjoy beautiful, productive gardens and share your success with family and friends. Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.
UltraGreen is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.
Sources:
1. Wade, G.L. and Thomas, P.A., “Success with Pansies in the Winter Landscape: A Guide for Landscape Professionals,” University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, October 2012.
2. Anderson, R., “Kentucky Garden Flowers: Pansy, Viola,” University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension.

General Care
Light: Pansies grow best in a place with at least 6 hours of sun. Some afternoon shade is beneficial in spring.
Soil: Pansies grow best in rich, moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter. Add peat or composted manure to enrich your soil.
Temperature: Pansies will develop best when night temperatures are in the 40’s and day temperatures are in the 60 degree range. They are extremely cold hardy and will bloom any time that the temperature is above freezing.
Fertilizer: When planting, water in with root stimulator fertilizer. We suggest using an organic fertilizer such as Espoma’s Flower-tone to continuously release fertilizer to your flowers.
Bloom: Keep old flowers pinched off to force more blossoms. Pansies will slow down in hot late spring temperatures. Pinch back, keep well-watered and mulch to keep roots cool. Replace with annuals in early summer.
Sub-Zero Pansies are designed by the grower to bloom in fall and again in spring when planted in late summer or early autumn. Avoid wind-swept/exposed locations. Do not place where plants are exposed to road salt or standing water. Not recommended for container gardening.
Friends of Pansies
Spring: Combine pansies with primroses, late blooming bulbs and early vegetables such as frilly red lettuce and cabbage.
Fall: Combine pansies with ornamental cabbage, kale, mums, and ornamental grasses.

Winter is coming to an end for many of us and the first signs of spring are everywhere. Growing pansies is a good way to bridge the change of seasons with one plant. They love the cool weather and are readily available at garden centers right now.

The botanical name for the garden pansy plant is Viola tricolor. The mature size of a plant is about 4 to 8 inches tall, and about 8 to 12 inches wide. The plant is native to Europe and eastern Asia.

The name pansy comes from the French word pensée. One of my readers Alice H tells me that the flower is considered a symbol of remembrance.

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Tips for growing pansies

Generally speaking, pansies are very easy to grow. They are one of the most popular annuals and most people can recognize them by name. Gardeners know pansies as bi-colored, heart shaped flowers with a marking like a face in the center of the flower.

These tips for how to grow and care for pansy flowers will help with keeping your plants blooming longer as you wait for some other spring blooming plants to grow.

Sunlight Needs for Pansies

Do Pansies Need Full Sun or Shade? The answer to this question depends on your hardiness zone. Normally, pansies like full sun (at least 4-6 hours a day,) but they can also grow in partial shade in some areas.

Shade is particularly beneficial if the plants are grown in zones warmer than zone 7. Placing them in partial shade will give them a break from the hot afternoon sun which can be strong even earlier in the spring months.

Too much sunlight will make the pansies stop producing flowers.

What type of soil do pansies need?

Pansies love a fertile, moist soil that drains well. Add some compost or other form of organic matter at planting time.

Pansies do seem to prefer a slightly acidic oil. Try incorporating some coffee grounds or used tea bags to help with soil acidity. They like a soil pH of 5.8 to 6.2

Water and fertilizing needs for pansies

If you plant pansies in the fall, the rainfall in winter will be more than enough to satisfy their needs. If you get periods where you have no rainfall for quite some time, it’s necessary to water to keep the soil lightly moist.

If you don’t compost, you can add a granular fertilizer in the top 4-6 inches of soil when you plant. A general all purpose fertilizer works well.

Too much fertilizer will make the plants leggy, requiring more pruning.

Pansy flowers

Given the proper care, and correct planting times, pansies will bloom in the fall and then again in the following spring in moderate zones. Most pansies remain evergreen in the winter but the plant will not flower then.

There are some winter blooming varieties of pansies that will continue to flower all winter long.

Pansy flowers come in all sorts of colors from white, yellow, purple, through to my favorite – blue. Many have coloration in the center that often looks like a face.

Traditionally, pansies will bloom in spring to early summer and some will repeat bloom again in the fall. Pansies really do not like the heat at all, and you will find that they will start to decline as the days begin to really warm up.

Do pansies need deadheading?

To keep pansies blooming as long as possible, it’s necessary to deadhead them. Deadheading is the process of removing any faded blooms.

Just use your finger tips or some scissors to cut off the blooms that are fading or are past their best. Cut off the blossom stem just above the first sets of leaves.

Don’t like deadheading? Check out this post for a list of plants that don’t need deadheading.

When to plant pansies

Since pansies perform best in the cooler months, it is normal to plant them in the late fall or very early spring.

Be careful of timing, though, if you plant in the fall. Don’t wait until it is too cold before you plant pansies. Get them in the ground before the coldest months arrive. This will allow the roots to spread and the plants to get well established before the weather turns really cold.

For most gardens, other than the warmest zones, early spring is a great time to plant pansies.

Uses for pansies in the garden

Pansies are one of the few flowering plants that can really take some cold weather, so they are useful as a plant to give color when nothing much else is growing.

Plant it around the base of flowering spring bulbs or as a border plant. It’s very pretty grown in groups with several plant of one shade for a large splash of color.

Use large patches of them of one color, alternating with another color pansy for a striking look.

Garden pots, window boxes, and handing baskets all look lovely when planted with pansies.

The plant attracts butterflies and bees and looks wonderful as a border plant around a whole garden bed.

Both the leaves and the flowers of pansies are edible and can be used to make syrups or used as a plate garnish or in salads.

Will my pansies come back year after year?

A common question that I get asked is “Are Pansies annuals or perennials?” Once again, the answer depends on your zone. Pansies grow differently from zone to zone.

Annual plants are those that grow and flower for only one season and perennials are those that come back each year when planted.

Depending on where you live, and the type of pansy that you plant, it can behave like an annual, a perennial (giving two years of bloom like a foxglove does) or a perennial.

In their natural habitats, pansies are biennials. The first year, they will grow leaves and the second year, you will see the flowers.

Biennial pansies might not survive Midwest winters or hot Southern summers. Even in zones where they can technically be grown as perennials, they are short lived and many tend to deteriorate after their first year of bloom.

On the West Coast, in warm areas like Southern California, biennial pansies can survive all year long, with new plants returning the following season to flower and finish out their growing cycle.

Winter Hardiness Zones for Pansies

Pansies are winter hardy in zones 4 – 8. The plant can take a light freeze and some short periods of snow cover, but you have a more prolonged period of winter snow, they won’t over winter without dry mulch over the top of them.

In zones 9-11, pansies will bloom in the winter and are usually planted in the fall. Pansies can take winter temperatures down to about 26 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do pansies self seed?

Pansies need insects for pollination in order to produce seeds. If you allow seed heads to develop on your plants, they will self seed in the garden and you may get new pansy seedlings.

However, like many plants that self seed, the new plants are not likely to look like the original parent plant.

Can pansies be grown indoors?

It is possible to grow pansies indoors, if you have enough light for them. But since pansies like the cool weather to perform best, the plant is not likely to be long lived, since most homes are warm and dry.

If you have a cool sun room, pansies will do well indoors.

If you enjoy starting seeds in peat pellets, it’s a great idea to start them indoors. Start the seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before the time when you plant to transplant them in the garden.

Bugs and Insects and Diseases

Slugs and snails like to munch on the flower petals of pansies. Surround them with crushed egg shells or use baits around them if this is a problem.

Aphids will sometimes attack pansies, but they can be treated with an insecticidal soap.

Pansy Wilt affects pansies and violas. Symptoms are wilted plants and rotten crowns. The danger time is during the growing season.

Be sure to rotate pansy plants every year so this disease will not happen as often. To treat affected plants, lift them out and destroy (don’t add to the compost pile.)

Pin this post for growing pansies for later

Would you like a reminder of this post for growing pansies? Just pin this image to one of your flower boards on Pinterest.

Active Time 30 minutes Total Time 30 minutes Difficulty easy Estimated Cost $2

Materials

  • Pansies
  • Well draining soil
  • Garden Shears
  • Compost

Tools

  • Print out this care card to keep the growing tips handy.

Instructions

TYPE OF PLANT

  1. Annual for most areas
  2. Some warmer zones it can be a biennial or tender perennial.

SUNLIGHT NEEDS

  1. Colder zones can plant in full sun
  2. Warmer zones should use partial shade. Pansies do not like the heat.

SOIL NEEDS

  1. Well draining
  2. Add compost at planting time.
  3. Likes an acidic pH of 5.8 – 6.2

WHEN TO PLANT PANSIES

  1. Pansies can be planted in late fall or early spring.
  2. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting outside.

WATER AND FERTILIZING NEEDS

  1. Winter plants will get sufficient water from rainfall. Spring plants may need additional water.
  2. Fertilize lightly with well balanced all purpose granular fertilizer.

DEADHEADING NEEDS

  1. Deadhead often to encourage new blooms.

HARDINESS ZONES

  1. Cold hardy in zones 4-8
  2. Zones 9-11, pansies will flower in the winter.

FLOWERS

  1. Lots of color varieties. Flowers have “faces.”
  2. Pansies will self seed but new plants will not be like parent plant.

CRITTERS AND BUGS

  1. Slugs and snails like pansies. Treat with baits or use crushed eggshells
  2. Aphids are sometimes a problem. Treat with insecticidal soap or a water spray.

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Pansy Plants

Botanical Name: Viola x wittrockiana

Velvety flowers in a rich range of colors have made pansy plants long-time favorites.

Easy to grow, pansies are well-suited for flower beds and borders, and make good container plants — alone or mixed with other types of flowers.

Those charming pansy “faces” are made up of 5 flat petals: 2 top, 2 side, and 1 lower petal. Typically, 2 or 3 colors are seen on each flower. The side and bottom petals often have contrasting blotches or veins radiating from the center of the bloom.

Hybrids have brought us a wide variety of colors and patterns to choose from, including purple, blue, violet-blue, yellow, red, pink and white. Some purple hues look almost black. And some newer hybrids have solid colors.

Packs of pansy flowers are easy to find in garden centers or online nurseries. Choose a plant with plenty of buds that are just beginning to open — a sign of a young, vigorous plant.

Pansy is a biennial, although it is usually bought in bloom, treated as an annual and tossed in the compost bin at the end of the season. You can keep it indoors to extend the bloom time.

Biennials have a 2-year life cycle. Grown from seed, they produce foliage the first year, then flower, set seed, and die the second year. Many newer pansy hybrids have been bred to bloom the first year.

Low and compact, pansies are ideal for containers. Or plant them in hanging baskets at eye-level for all to admire. If you don’t have a spot outdoors, put pansies on your sunny windowsill.

Growing Pansies

Pinch off flowers after they fade to promote more blooms. It’s work, yes — but you’ll have a long growing season by pinching spent flowers.

Got a reluctant bloomer? Lack of sunlight or too-high temperatures will make pansy plants fail to flower. Yes, pansies are a little wimpy. Shade them from direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day.

Pansy Plants Care Tips

Origin: Hybrids with origins from England

Height: Up to 8 in (20 cm)

Light: Bright light to full sun. Pansies like it cool, so if you live where the summer is hot, keep your plants in partial shade.

Water: Keep the soil moist at all times, but don’t over-water. Dry soil will cause flowers to fade quickly. If you’re watering regularly and the plant wilts, root rot or stem rot is likely. These are the most common problems with this plant.

Humidity: Try to maintain 40-50% relative humidity around the plant. Place pot on a tray of wet pebbles to increase humidity. Don’t mist them indoors because pansies are susceptible to powdery mildew.

Temperature: Cool to average room temperatures 60-75°F/16-24°C. If you grow them outdoors, they’re winter hardy to USDA Zone 4. Pansies like cold better than heat, even tolerating a little frost.

Soil: Any good-quality, all-purpose potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation: Sow pansy seeds in early spring. Drop them on top of moist potting mix, then barely cover them with mix. Seeds will germinate at room temperature. Don’t expose them to sunlight until they’ve sprouted.

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These rounded, flat-faced spring flowers look just like a chubby-faced baby, so how could you not love them? Garden favorites for generations, pansies are widely available just about everywhere and are often the first annuals to bloom. Unfortunately they’re not heat resistant, so you have to get the most out of them before the dog days of summer knock them flat on their adorable little faces.

Here’s what you need to know before you plant pansies:

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Pansies can tolerate most USDA Hardiness Zones and can even sprout successfully as far north as the Canadian border. They grow to about 6 to 9 inches tall — making them good ground cover between taller plants on your plot — and bloom in a variety of bright colors like blue, lavender, purple, red, orange, bronze, yellow, and white.

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These annuals begin blooming in early spring and continue through most of summer. In milder climates, they’ll keep goring from autumn through the winter months. In hotter areas, look for heat-resistant cultivars and plant them in moderate shade. They prefer full sun, but can grow successfully without it.

The easiest way to grow pansies from seed is to treat them like biennials. Sow them outdoors in midsummer, then plant them in their final home in the fall, mulching well in cold winter areas.

It’s possible to sow pansies indoors in a container garden, although it’s a bit of a challenge: Sow the seeds indoors 14 to 16 weeks before the last frost date, barely covering them. Place the containers in your refrigerator for two weeks and then expose the seed to room temperatures. Your plants should sprout in about 10 days.

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After germination, keep the temperature as low as you can. Between 50 and 65 degrees is ideal, but room temperature is acceptable. Plant out hardened-off seedlings as soon as the soil is workable. When they’re outdoors, water pansies as needed and deadhead them to maintain blooming. Cut straggly plants back severely to stimulate new growth.

As one of the few annuals planted in the fall for early-spring bloom, pansies play a unique role in the garden as a wonderful a companion planting method. Tuck them around plants that thrive in part shade, such as ferns or purple-leaved heucheras, and they’ll bloom well into summer.

Pansies are somewhat susceptible to leaf diseases, so choose disease-resistant strains and rotate plantings if you notice repeated damage. Hand-pick slugs and snails if they become a problem.

Hi, I have a problem with my pansies. Some have turned yellow and are trying to die. What can I do? I’ve got a sort of sandy clay soil, but I mixed a gardening soil with it and fed them with a recommended fertilizer; a time release pellet. Thank you.

Pansies, Viola x wittrockiana, are charming plants that bloom in colorful profusion with cheerful faces. They are mildly fragrant and even edible. They brighten containers on the porch or patio or next to the entrance of your home and depending on where you live, bring color to your garden during fall, winter and spring.

Because they are not heat tolerant, spring pansies will not over-summer well in the south and are best used as a cool season planting. In warm regions they are most often planted in the fall. They will grow throughout winter, blooming whenever the weather is favorable and then really take off in spring. A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch to prevent the ground from freezing will help protect them during freezes and cold snaps.

In colder zones they may not persist during extended cold weather and they will not over-winter so planting is done in the spring through the early summer, until temperatures get too warm.

Without seeing your plants it’s hard to diagnose the problem, but here are some general guidelines to follow that should lead to success.

If you are planting pansies in the fall, wait until temperatures cool down. Plants weakened by heat may not recover enough to be as beautiful as they can be.

Plant your pansies in full sun to partially shaded places. Lanky plants are an indication that the light levels are too low.

They prefer a loose, organic, slightly acidic soil that is cool, rich, moist, and well-drained. A natural, slow release fertilizer such as blood meal or compost can be added into the soil as you are planting.

Mulch around your pansies with 2 inches of organic material such as pine straw or pine bark to help conserve moisture, reduce wilting during the heat of the day and keep weed growth in check.

When you water try not to get moisture on the leaves of the plants.

Pansies are heavy feeders and benefit from a monthly application of a liquid fertilizer. Be sure to follow the package directions.

Root rot, leaf spot, powdery mildew, and bumpy growths on the stems are all conditions of too much water caused by the plants either being overwatered or in too wet of an environment. Make sure that the soil is allowed to dry slightly between watering. In areas that grow them over the fall and winter you may not need to water them much once the cooler weather sets in. If you notice that the leaves are purplish colored, that is a sign of stress, usually from the cold.

In addition to moisture related diseases the usual pests need to be watched for ¬ aphids, mites and slugs. Insecticidal soaps and slug traps are the best organic defenses.

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