How do you know winter's just around the corner in the Rogue Valley? Pansies (scientific name: Viola tricolor var. hortensis) start cropping up in flowerbeds and planters around town. These cheerful little flowers weather the winter without a fuss and provide a much-needed shot of color when the sky is gray and your garden is brown.

Photo: Finding My Home

These perrenials are available in many brilliant colors: some solid, some shaded, others look like they've been tie-dyed. They come in almost every shade of yellow, purple, red, white, orange and pink, and some pansy blossoms have dark markings resembling a face in the middle of the flower. Pansies come in regular, miniature and giant varieties.

Planting and Growing Pansies - The Basics
  1. Pansies may be grown from seeds, but are more often purchased in flats or punnets as small plants or larger, already-flowering plants.
  2. If you want to grow your own plants from seeds, the seeds need to be planted indoors 8 to 10 weeks before you plan to plant the seedlings outside.
  3. It is generally easier, although not required, to plant the seeds in large seed trays.
  4. The seeds need to be planted in a moist, humus rich soil and covered only lightly. If you keep the seeds in a dark, cool (between 40 and 60 degrees) place they will germinate more quickly. It should take two to three weeks for germination to occur.
  5. Spread the plants 7 to 12 inches apart.
  6. The seedlings planted in seed trays need to be transplanted into larger pots when they have 4 to 6 leaves and moved out of the dark and into either natural or fluorescent light.
pansies in a container

Planting Pansy Seedlings Outdoors
You can plant your homegrown or purchased flats of pansies outdoors in the fall or spring. If you plant in the fall, the pansies won't grow much until springtime. If the temperature drops below freezing or there's a frost advisory, it wouldn't hurt to cover them. Pansies prefer full sun but will grow in partial shade, and they'll do best if planted in rich soil with good drainage. It is a good idea to fertilize the soil at the time of planting. Make sure the seedling roots are wet when you plant them and water the seedlings immediately after planting.

Depending on the variety of pansy you are planting, place the seedlings 6 to 12 inches apart to allow room for growth.

Pansy Maintenance
Pansies are one of the easiest plants to grow and require little maintenance after planting. The plants need about an inch of water a week, so if it is not raining or if your pots are under a covered porch, water the plants once a week. Make sure your potted plants are well drained; you don’t want your pansy roots to be in standing water.

Fertilize every 3 or 4 weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer. You can mulch the plants to help them stay moist and discourage weeds.

Pansies are hardy and usually not bothered by insects or disease. Good air circulation will help keep them healthy.

Deadheads should be pinched off to encourage blooming. Though pansies aren't perennials, they can re-seed themselves with the seeds that will form if you don't deadhead.

Pansy Tips
Pansies are great for indoor spring arrangements and are edible. The blossoms are slightly sweet and can be eaten raw. Try pansy blossoms in salads or as cake decorations. There are also recipes for crystallizing pansies similar tpeo the way violets are crystallized. Pansies frozen into ice cubes make a colorful addition to punch bowls.

Pansy FAQ

  1. Question: Are pansies perennials or annuals?
  2. Answer: Pansies are perennials but are typically grown as annuals.
  3. Question: When do you plant pansy seeds?
  4. Answer: Pansies are typically planted 8-10 weeks before you plan on transplanting them. For winter flowering, plant the seeds in the summer. For summer flowering plant in the spring.
  5. Question: Do pansies come back every year?
  6. Answer: Yes, pansies typically come back every year as most varieties are perennials. Pansies planted in the spring will typically pop up in the fall if protected from extreme heat (80-90 degrees).
  7. Question: Are pansies edible?
  8. Answer: Yes, pansies can be eaten and often have a fresh flavor or sometimes wintergreen flavor depending on how much is eaten.
  9. Question: Are pansies poison to dogs and other animals?
  10. Answer: Yes, pansies can cause problems for animals, although generally considered to only be mildly toxic.

Comments (1) Subscribe to this comment's feed

I love pansies; the colors are so rich and beautiful.
morning.glory , March 01, 2011

Write comment

You must be logged in to post comments. If you do not have an acccount, register here.