How do you know winter's just around the corner in the Rogue Valley? Pansies 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.

pansies2
Photo: Finding My Home

These annuals 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.

Growing Basics
Pansies may be grown from seeds, but are more often purchased in flats or punnets as small plants or larger, already-flowering plants.

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. It is generally easier, although not required, to plant the seeds in large seed trays. The seeds need to be planted in a moist 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.

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
Photo: sxc.hu/mzacha

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 to the way violets are crystallized. Pansies frozen into ice cubes make a colorful addition to punch bowls.

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

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