It’s almost Pansy time and I’m so excited I can hardly stop myself from writing a whole blog just about Pansies! Most of my horticultural career has had me perplexed that other gardeners aren’t as excited about Pansies as I am. Most of you will plant a few, primarily because it’s too cold to plant anything else and you refuse to wait another four to six weeks to get your hands dirty! I love that Pansies are so cold hardy, I love that they smell great and I love that the flowers look like happy faces even if they have to poke up through a light dusting of snow to do so. You can plant them early and enjoy them for months – that’s a lot of bloom for your buck in my book!
“Back in the Day” when my dad and grandmother grew and sold Pansies, they mostly planted the Majestic Giant series. This series has huge flowers and cheerful faces and for nostalgic reasons we still do grow some mixes of them. There are lots of new hybrids like the Deltas and the Crown series. These two series have slightly smaller flowers than Magestics, but flower much earlier and more prolifically when it finally gets warm in July.
Violas used to just be yellow and purple Johnny Jump Ups! Now we grow about 10 different types and colors and we sell almost as many of these as we do traditional Pansies!
Caring for Pansies is easy. Here’s a quick guide to making sure they stay healthy, happy and blooming so you really do get the most bloom for your buck!
Pansies have large, eye-catching blooms that don’t require deadheading but they will flower much more prolifically if you do deadhead them. Remove the old flower AND the green stem it is attached to as low down as you can reach. Use your thumbnail and pointy finger to pinch the old flower stem off. There is nothing more satisfying than a real green thumb!
Fertilizing Pansies is the most important step you can take in ensuring their continual bloom. It can be as easy as a once a month application of Osmocote, which provides time release fertilizer for up to four weeks, or do it weekly with a liquid fertilizer like Espoma’s Organic Bloom.
We grow several sizes in order to meet needs, from containers and window boxes to large flower beds. While the 4″pots are more expensive than 6 pack flats, the plants are more mature and have a more established root system so you’ll get started on flowering color right away and won’t have to wait for them to fill out. Either way, plant them 4-6 inches apart, center to center, and offset the lines in a triangular planting pattern.
In containers, Pansies can be planted right next to each other. Not sure how many you need? Bring your container into the store and we will help you fill it and plant it! No charge for the service, you just pay for the plants!
Last but certainly not least, there are new trailing Pansies for use in hanging baskets and window boxes! We grow the Cool Wave series and love how heat tolerant they are once it warms up in mid summer.
Bonus – These cool season annuals pair well with spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. You can mix them all together for weeks of flowering in your containers. Once the bulbs have passed the Pansies will quickly fill in around them for continued color!
Need more options? Pansies and spring bulbs are always the safest cold hardy options for early spring planting, but there are more cold tolerant plants for you to try! Although they will all tolerate a light frost, if the night temperatures do drop below 29 degrees, bring these plants inside to keep them safe from freeze damage.
Also called African daisy, this amazing plant produces gorgeous single or double, daisy-like flowers in an electric array of colors and bi-colors. In fact, colors are so striking you might even be tricked into thinking they aren’t real. Top colors include white, blue, purple, orange, yellow, rose and lavender. Thriving in sun or partial shade, osteospermum grows 1 to 3 feet tall and blooms like crazy when the temperatures are in the 50s and 60s.
Chilly weather won’t stop annual dianthus from putting on a non-stop show of color. Most annual dianthus grow 6 to 10 inches tall and produce richly fragrant pink, white, or red flowers. Once summer temperatures heat up, dianthus will often take a break from blooming. I shear them back by about a third and they repeat bloom until fall.
You might not think of petunias as cool-weather annuals, but these tough plants will tolerate a light frost with no damage. The new repeat blooming varieties of petunias like Supertunias and Waves come in an astounding variety of colors, bi-colors, shapes and sizes, and all of them have one thing in common—they bloom happily in containers or garden beds. Just give them a sunny spot, a lot of fertilizer and water, and they’ll do the rest.
My grandmother would always jump-start her spring garden by filling pots, planters, baskets, and beds with snapdragons. Available in dwarf, standard and even trailing varieties, snapdragons offer an assortment of jewel-like colors that are so bright they practically pop out of the garden. Tall varieties, which can grow 2 feet tall, also make outstanding cut flowers. Snapdragons prefer chilly spring or fall weather and may stop blooming once the weather heats up. I treat mine just like my Dianthus and when they stop blooming I shear them back by about a third and they will quickly repeat bloom until fall.
Sweet alyssum may be small in stature (only growing 4 to 6 inches tall) but it’s big on color and fragrance. Producing thousands of tiny white, rose, blue, or bi-colored blooms, sweet alyssum will quickly spread or trail through your pots and flower borders. I love their fragrance! Many gardeners give up on them when they slow their flowering in the heat of summer. I’ve tried cutting them back to induce more flowers, but if it’s too hot and dry they may not respond well. That’s ok because they provided me with wonderful fragrance and color in a season where I couldn’t plant much else, so I’m ready to let them go when they are done.
The soft, silvery foliage of dusty miller contrasts beautifully with the bright blooms of pansies, dianthus and snapdragons! Dusty Miller is the perfect filler plant for mixed containers and baskets. These plants grow 6 to 9 inches tall with velvety, scalloped silver leaves that almost beg you to caress them. Dusty miller is almost indestructible, being deer, drought and disease-resistant. That’s why it’s a terrific first-time plant for children or novice gardeners.
Too many options? Not sure what to plant in your window box or container? Bring it in! We love helping you pick and then plant up your combinations! We never charge for the service and it’s so much fun to do!
Michelle and all the Plant Geeks at Lakeview!