Pansies perennial or annual

Varied in colour and diminutive in appearance, pansies are a versatile cottage-garden favourite, perfect for adding delicate decorative touches.

1. Pansies are derived from several species of the viola family hybridised from the much smaller-flowered wild forms of this plant, particularly native Viola tricolor, also called heartsease or love-in-idleness.

2. Modern hybrids are varieties of Viola x wittrockiana and they bloom in an array of colours, from yellow, purple, orange, white and blue to almost black. The size of their flowers also varies, ranging from large blotched cheerful ‘faces’ to the smaller, more elegant forms and delicately marked varieties such as the Princess Series.

Pernilla Bergdahl/House of Pictures

3. Best treated as biennials or short-lived perennials, pansies look delicate but are in fact resilient and long-lasting, and can withstand frost and harsh weather.

4. They are happy grown in containers or borders in sun or part- shade and in fertile, moist but well-drained soil or multi-purpose compost. Sow from seed in late winter or buy as potted plants from garden centres for winter and summer flowering.

Pernilla Bergdahl/House of Pictures

5. To get the best from pansies, keep them moist and cool, use an organic slow-release balanced fertiliser to maintain their condition and maximise flowering, and dead-head regularly. Generally, they are trouble free, only succumbing to aphids or powdery mildew once they eventually become exhausted.

6. With so many varieties to choose from in single and double forms, they can be mixed together easily to produce harmonious arrangements or a burst of riotous colour almost all year round.

Pernilla Bergdahl/House of Pictures

7. Pansies are edible and can be used to add vibrant decoration to salads or iced cakes. Smaller, single flowers are best for this.

8. Their small form makes them ideal for pots or window boxes, either massed on their own or as companions to bulbs and primulas or summer bedding plants.

Pernilla Bergdahl/House of Pictures

9. Re-plant shop-bought pansies in potting compost when you get them home to allow them to develop a larger root system and flower for longer.

10. Pansies have short stems, so shot glasses or votives are ideal as vases. Alternatively, float the heads in a shallow bowl, where they will last for several days.

Pernilla Bergdahl/House of Pictures

We recommend you buy them from:

  • Chiltern Seeds – Mail-order company that sells modern hybrid pansies, along with the more diminutive species and perennial violas.
  • Elizabeth MacGregor Nursery – Small Scottish nursery with online shop and perennial cultivars raised from cuttings. Wide range, including cornuta cultivars and delicate violettas.
  • Wildegoose Nursery – RHS award-winning Shropshire nursery with online sales. More than 150 varieties, including rare, heritage, modern and unusual forms.

Pernilla Bergdahl/House of Pictures

Styling by Ulrika Grönlund | Photographs by Pernilla Bergdahl/House of Pictures. This feature is from Country Living magazine. Subscribe here.



Perennial flowers are those that continue to grow year after year after remaining dormant throughout the winter. Annuals typically are planted in the spring and summer months, bloom for the season, and then die. Gardeners often supplant perennial gardens with lively, colorful annuals. Annuals are also commonly used as borders and in containers and flower boxes to brighten up the landscape.


Annuals typically are less expensive than perennial flowers. They do however provide a lush display of color from late spring when they’re planted through the entire summer season. Perennials on the other hand require less care when they’ve been planted in appropriate spots. Once open, perennial blooms last an average of four to six weeks. After about four years, perennials can be divided to make more flowers.


Annual flowers require more work and attention. Each year, the soil must be reworked. Planting can be time-consuming. You have to purchase new annuals each year to fill your garden’s bare spots and add the vivid colors. Perennials are usually more expensive, according to the Tulsa Master Gardeners, and often don’t bloom for the first couple seasons after they’ve been planted. The short blooming season of perennials often leaves gardens lacking in color, especially if flowers are cut for indoor displays or gifts.


Many perennials such as hostas and hydrangeas can be planted in the fall and may produce flowers in their first season. Perennials and annuals alike should be planted after the final frost, after mid-April in most areas. Gardeners in cooler climates often wait until after Mother’s Day to protect flowers from last-minute frosts. Summer is the ideal time to plant annuals such as zinnias, petunias and periwinkle that prefer warmer soil.


Traditionally, potted flowering plants given as gifts are perennials that can be replanted in the fall or early spring and grow in their pots until you are ready to transfer them to the garden. Annuals can serve as gifts, but only for those recipients who plan to plant the flowers immediately or just enjoy them in their pots through the summer. Popular potted flowers at ProFlowers include hydrangeas, tulips, hyacinths and lilies.

Annual, Perennial, Biennial?

Annuals – Plants that perform their entire life cycle from seed to flower

Annual Plains Coreopsis

to seed within a single growing season. All roots, stems and leaves of the plant die annually. Only the dormant seed bridges the gap between one generation and the next.

Perennials – Plants that persist for many growing seasons. Generally the top portion of the plant dies back each winter and regrows the following spring

Perennial Purple Coneflower

from the same root system (e.g. Purple Coneflower). Many perennial plants do keep their leaves year round and offer attractive borders and groundcover (e.g. Tickseed, Shasta and Ox-Eyed Daisy). NOTE: WHEN STARTING PERENNIAL PLANTS FROM SEED, BLOOMS WILL BE OBSERVED IN EITHER THE SPRING OR SUMMER OF THE SECOND YEAR AND EACH YEAR THEREAFTER (e.g. Ox-Eyed Daisy planted in the spring of 1996 will not bloom until the spring of 1997).

Biennials – Plants which require two years to complete their life cycle.

Biennial Foxglove

First season growth results in a small rosette of leaves near the soil surface. During the second season’s growth stem elongation, flowering and seed formation occur followed by the entire plant’s death.

Annual/Perennial – A plant can behave as an annual or a perennial depending on local climatic and geographic growing conditions. In the southern portion of the United States, these plants tend to grow much quicker than in the north due to the warmer weather and extended growing season. For example: a Black-Eyed Susan would behave as an annual if grown in Louisiana; whereas, if grown in Ohio, a Black-Eyed Susan would behave as a perennial.

Viola: Pansies and Violet

This well-known and much-loved genus includes over 500 species of annuals and perennials found in all the temperate regions of the world. Over 300 species are native to North America. Learn more about the native violet selection on our Northwest Natives Viola page.

Annual pansies and violas are invaluable for winter and spring color in Portland. They provide mass color in borders and flower beds. They are also perfectly suited to containers.

Perennial violas are smaller cousins of pansies that will bloom almost year-round in Portland. A dainty plant that fits in a mixed container or hanging basket, they are useful in planting beds, rock gardens, as a ground cover, and as additions to a mixed border. Preferring cooler weather for best bloom, they often put on a good show in spring, and then again in the fall through a mild winter.

Most species are small clump-forming plants with lobed, elliptical, kidney- or heart-shaped leaves. All Violas have remarkably similarly shaped 5-petalled flowers, with the lower petal often carrying dark markings.

Historically Violets have been used for aromatherapy in perfume and sachets, in particular V. odorata. Their sweet fragrance is synonymous with the Victorian era.

Their brightly colored velvety flowers are edible and make a beautiful addition to salads, cheeses, dips & pâté. Include them in an edible flower or salad themed garden. Violets are made into sweet syrup used in making candy, baked goods and liqueurs. Soufflés, cream and similar desserts can be flavored with essence of violet flowers.

A candied violet or crystallized violet, often used to decorate desserts, is a violet flower preserved by a coating of sugar syrup. Candied violets are still made commercially at Toulouse, France, where they are known as violettes de Toulouse.

Violets, whose blooms, leaves and roots are high in vitamins A and C, have been used medicinally.

Their blossoms are easily pressed; retain their color and shape, making them an ideal flower for arts and crafts projects.

You will find the best selection of annual bedding varieties at Portland Nursery during the early spring and again in the fall into winter months. Perennial varieties arrive spring into fall.

Some varieties you can look forward to finding at Portland Nursery include:

Bedding Pansy, Horned Violet is a perennial species that prefers shade.

Viola ‘Columbine’

Striking, heavily streaked, purple and white flowers. It has early, freely-blooming flowers and is a vigorous grower with a compact habit. 12″ x 18″

Viola ‘Etain’

Beautiful large, creamy yellow flowers accented by lavender purple edges. Its blooms are slightly fragrant. 12″ x 18″

Viola ‘Rebecca’

Impressionistic-looking flowers of cream, blotched with purple. This long blooming variety, with a compact tidy habit, is very attractive from afar. 9″ x 12″

Viola ‘Starry Night’

Graced with dusky lavender purple blossoms with a primrose yellow center. Its trailing habit makes it ideal for baskets and containers.
8″ x 8″

Viola labradorica

This perennial species makes a lovely ground cover with its broad mat of dark purplish foliage and deep violet purple flowers. Readily reseeds and can be aggressively invasive. 6″x6″

Viola odorata: Sweet Violet, English Violet, Common Violet, Garden Violet

This perennial species is native to Europe and Asia. The sweet, unmistakable scent of its flower has proved popular throughout the generations, particularly in the late Victorian period, and has consequently been used in the production of many cosmetic fragrances, perfumes and culinary violet syrup.

  • ‘Blue Remington’ has large blue flowers appearing in profusion from late winter through spring, and sometimes again in fall. The glossy green foliage is neat and trouble free. 6″ x 15″
  • ‘Rosina’ has dusky pink, sweetly-fragrant flowers blooming in spring over heart shaped leaves. It prefers moist conditions. 2-4″ x 6″

Viola sororaria ‘Freckles’

A rare and most unusual perennial violet with speckled flowers in late winter to spring produces up to 20 per plant in its first season. ‘Freckles’ is easy to grow in sun or part shade, drought resistant and needs good drainage. This one looks great under roses, in borders, and containers. 4-6″ tall.

Viola tricolor: Johnny Jump-Up, Heartsease, Wild Pansy

A common European wild flower, grown as an annual or short-lived perennial. It has been introduced into North America, where it has spread widely by reseeding.

Hybrid Cultivars: Annual Pansy & Viola

You may be most familiar with this group of violas, the bright and beautiful bedding annuals that are a favorite in Portland gardens. Mostly neat, slowly spreading clumps of fleshy, dark green, shallowly lobed, ½-2 in long, pointed oval to lance-shaped leaves. Flowers are variably sized from small to giant styles nearly 3 inches wide. They come in virtually all colors and many beautiful combinations and patterns.

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