Want colorful flowers
this spring? No time to read that 500-page gardening book you got for Christmas? Well, time-pressed gardener, here's how to grow masses of beautiful pansies
in 10 easy steps.
1. Know your zone.
Is now a good time to plant
? The answer depends upon your zone. Check the USDA's plant hardiness map
. Pansies are grown as annuals
in zones 2 to 11 (i.e. most of the US) during spring and fall. From zone 9 south to zone 11 (south Texas and most of Florida), they will grow right through winter. North of zone 9, they may die down during winter, but come back in Spring. Further north, the cold will kill them stone dead. Bottom line: if the weather is warming up for Spring and you don't expect any really hot weather anytime soon, you're probably good to go.
2. Buy smart.
Don't be sucked in by the brightest blooms. Instead, buy dense, sturdy-looking plants with lots of healthy, green leaves and buds. These will give you more blooms in the long run once they get established. Another buying tip: it's better value to buy whole trays of baby pansies rather than pint-sized pots of mature ones. Be patient and those tiny plants will soon grow to full size.
3. Location logic.
Pansies love sun. They will not thrive in extremely shady areas. Therefore, choose your planting spot with care, especially if you are planting them in a garden
bed. Obviously, container
pansies can be easily moved if excess shade turns out to be a problem. Don't fret too much about the location issue; as long as they can get several hours of strong sunlight during the middle of the day, your pansies will do just fine.
4. Container fun.
Pansies do well in containers and they are pretty inexpensive. So have fun and experiment with fun and whimsical containers. Try planting pansies in old boots, an antique bathroom
sink half-buried in the ground, on the seat of an old chair
, or in an old wheelbarrow. Not only does this work well on a deck, it is also effective in the front yard
because it provides a distinctive focal point.
5. Invest in A-grade dirt.
The secret to success with annuals lies in the soil
. Regular garden soil (topsoil) is very fine and compacts around delicate roots. This is bad. It's wise to invest in soil that's designed specifically for annuals. If you're planting in containers, buy container potting soil. These soils hold moisture beautifully, yet provide excellent drainage. They also contain slow-release fertilizers, so you don't have to add that yourself. Okay, these mixes are expensive. However, if you want tons of low-care or no-care blooms this Spring, these mixes are the way to go. Another possibility: if you're willing to put in more work and time, you can make your own mixes for a lot less cash.
6. Loosen 'em up.
Pansies have really, really delicate roots. Help them get started by gently loosening the roots up before placing them in the soil. Carefully tear them free of the growing mix in which they came and mix the old with the new as you plant them. If they are root-bound, gently separate and spread the roots. Finally, do not bury the crown of the plant (the point where the plant emerges from the soil).
7. Masses are a must.
For maximum visual impact, plant your pansies (or any annual for that matter) in masses. That is, in messy, naturalistic circles and bunches. Clusters of containers look good too. Do not plant them in rows. Do not plant them in ones or twos, dotted around the yard. Just don't
8. Mulching. Another must.
Gardening without mulch
is like driving without a seatbelt. Um. Or, or...a sundae without sprinkles. You can go without, but why would you? Mulches save you time and money because they keep moisture in, but protect plants from heavy rainfall or extreme temperatures. They also keep weeds away. Use anything -- leaves, pine needles, compost, whatever you like -- but do
9. Don't forget 'em.
Low-care does not mean "plant and forget." Water your pansies when the weather is dry, but go easy because they will not tolerate wet roots. Give them a quick check once a week for damage by aphids or other crawly/furry culprits. Minor bug attacks are not a big deal, so don't overreact with a barrage of chemicals. I've read that rabbits do like to eat pansy flowers, but can be discouraged with a sprinkling of blood meal
. (On the soil, not the bunny.) Regular checks are also a good time to deadhead your pansies of old blooms, thus encouraging the growth of new buds.
10. Impress your friends!
Interesting facts about pansies: I. They are edible
, II. Pansies and violas are basically the same thing
, III. The pansy's Latin name is Viola X. Wittrockiana
Perfect Pansies(click thumbnails to view gallery)