Planting Pansies

Shirley Bohm, one of our member MGEV’s, wrote the following for a group of Girl Scouts who volunteered to plant pansies at Vines Park to earn their gardening badge.  It’s a great article full of information.

  1. Pansies.
    1. Pansies are annuals that can be planted from seeds or transplants.  Seeds have to be started 6-8 weeks before planting in the garden but transplants are readily available at most nurseries and many other stores.
    2. Pansies and their cousins, violas, violets and johnny-jump-ups, will bloom for 6-8 months, depending on the weather.
    3. Pansies are cool weather plants and can even survive under snow cover.
    4. The ideal temperature for pansies is 40-60°F.  Below 40°F, roots shut down and can’t transport water and nutrients to the leaves.
    5. Pansies protect themselves during cold weather by temporarily wilting.  The dry leaves are not damaged by the cold.  As the weather warms, the roots send water back up to the leaves.  Roots need to be protected with mulch so they aren’t killed.
    6. Pansies love sun but hate heat.  Hot afternoon sun above about 80°F shuts down flower production and will eventually kill the plant. Remove the pansies in May or June and replace with summer annuals.
    7. Pansies come in many colors and color combinations.  A single color flower is called “clear” and a multi-color flower is considered a “blotched” color.
    8. Pansies are not susceptible to many pests except slugs and mildew.
    9. Pansies are edible flowers and can be added to salads for their color and spicy taste.
  2. Preparing the soil.
    1. Pansies prefer rich, well-drained soil.  Pansies don’t like “wet feet.”  The plants will rot in water-logged soil.
    2. Add 3-4 inches of organic matter such as compost or rotted manure to the soil before tilling it in.  Organic matter helps hold moisture in the soil so it doesn’t drain away.
    3. Rototill or spade up the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches before planting.  This makes it easier for the roots to grow out and establish the plant
  3. Planting, fertilizing and mulching.
    1. Planting time for pansies in the southeast is about Oct. 1st – 15th.   Our plant hardiness zone is 7b.   If you plant much earlier than that, it is too hot and the plant will not survive the heat or will be leggy and produce no flowers.  If you plant too late in the fall, the pansies will be stunted because roots won’t have a chance to grow and support the plant.
    2. Pansies are heavy feeders so they need to be fertilized when they are planted and every 2 weeks throughout their growing season.

i.      Don’t use a slow release ammonia fertilizer.  Ammonia fertilizers cause the pansies to stretch (grow long stems) which are then more fleshy and susceptible to winter cold.  It is also slow to be absorbed so pansies can starve for necessary nutrients.

ii.      Use a nitrate fertilizer which is more easily absorbed during the winter.

  1. To plant pansies:

i.      Decide on the design you want to use and lay out the plants, making sure they are about 8 inches apart.

ii.      Rake away the pine straw and dig a hole about 5-6 inches deep.

iii.      Add fertilizer to the hole.

iv.      Place the plant in the hole and firm the soil around the plant.

v.      Stems and crown of the plant should be at ground level and not buried otherwise they will get root or crown rot.

vi.      Arrange the pine straw around the plant and pull all the stems above the pine straw.

  1. Water the pansies thoroughly after planting.  This helps remove air pockets around roots and provides water so the plants can start growing a good root system while it is still warm.
  2. Maintenance
    1. Deadhead or remove flowers after they are finished blooming.  That will encourage the plants to produce more flowers.
    2. Water weekly if there is no rain.
    3. Fertilize pansies every 2-4 weeks for good growth.
    4. Make sure the plants are well mulched with pine straw to protect the plants when it gets cold and to help prevent moisture from evaporating.
    5. If the temperature drops below 10°F, cover the plants with pine straw to protect them.  Don’t forget to remove the pine straw when the weather warms up.