There's a reason these hardy blooms are a seasonal favorite.

By Lauren Wellbank
November 06, 2020
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Pansies, the happy little flowers with "faces" in the center of their blooms, are part of the violet family. They prefer cooler temperatures, as opposed to the long hot days of summer, so these flowers commonly start popping up in nurseries and garden beds in the early days of spring and fall. Ahead, our experts share tips to ensure these plants bloom to their fullest in your garden.

Credit: Getty Images

All About Pansies

Pansies are popular annuals that bring extra color to your yard during the cooler months of the year. "Their rounded flowers with overlapping petals offer interesting markings and colors," explains Adrienne R. Roethling, director of curation and mission delivery at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. "Kids really love them because the markings [on] the petals resemble faces." These small mounding flowers are perfect for the front of a border garden, in containers, and in your vegetable garden since their flowers are edible.

How to Grow Pansies

Pansies thrive in temperatures below 70 degrees and can handle cold winters. "They will bloom during snow events, too," says Roethling, adding that they will need full winter sun and sharp drainage to thrive. Pansies can be grown in USDA hardiness zones four to 11, but how they grow in those zones will depend on the weather. "In cooler zones four through seven, pansies can be treated as short-lived biennials, but more commonly they are used as an annual, particularly in warmer climes zones eight through 11," explains Paul Sangha, landscape architect and founder of Paul Sangha Creative

Fertilizing Your Pansies

Pansies love fertilizer, especially when they're first planted. Roethling recommends a boost of 10-10-10 to start. "You can apply a liquid 10-10-10 every three weeks," she says. "Apply a spoonful to a gallon watering can and water your plants accordingly." Once your plants have made big gains you can scale back. "If you choose to go the organic route, find a slow release fertilizer like osmocote which is often [sold] as a granular."

Starting from Seed

Sangha says you can start pansies indoors from seed around 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost date. But if that sounds like more work than you're interested in, he says you can also find them in most nurseries at a fairly reasonable price. However, if you're going to purchase established plants you'll want to make sure you're not buying them too soon. "Most box stores begin offering pansies early while temperatures can still be in the 80s," Roethling says. "I would wait a couple more weeks, the supply should still continue, but the temperatures will be far more favorable."

Troubleshooting Your Pansies

If you've noticed that your once happy flowers have begun to falter, there are a couple of things you should check, Sangha explains. If your plant is getting more than one inch of water a week, they may be experiencing root rot from poor drainage or too much water. Another common culprit of pansies can be slugs. "If you're noticing holes or slimy mucus on your plants, slug traps or diatomaceous earth can be applied to ward off hungry offenders," he says. Roethling adds that botrytis, a type of rot that forms on dead decaying material, is another thing to watch out for. "If you do not keep the soils, pots, and plants growing sterile, botrytis forms quickly," she says. "Low airflow, moisture, and low light contribute to botrytis on pansies."

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