For both seasoned gardeners and curious newbies, pansies offer versatile and easy-to-manage options. The variety of colors, overall hardiness, and adaptability when placed near other flowering plants make pansies a delight whether they're tucked into pots on your patio or carefully lined up along a garden walkway.
Pansies can be grown from seeds or purchased at a garden center. For spring flowers, start the seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost. If you want to add pansies to your landscape for fall, start the seeds in late summer.
Plant the seeds about a quarter of an inch deep. Keep them covered in a dark place until they germinate — around 14 days. Once they sprout, they need bright light. If you are buying seedlings instead, choose plants that are bushy with lots of flower buds.
If you started your pansies from seeds, you can transplant them outdoors when the ground has thawed, ideally after the last spring frost. The same timing applies to seedlings purchased from the garden center. Pansies prefer loose, well-draining soil that is slightly acidic.
When planting, leave 7 to 12 inches between your pansies. They will spread 9 to 12 inches as they grow. If you are planting them in containers, a one-foot diameter works well, but ensure it has drainage holes so the roots don’t soak in their water.
Pansies are cool-weather plants; they need full sun to partial shade with about 6 hours of sunlight. The best planting spots expose them to the morning sun and then shade in the afternoon as the temperatures rise. Some gardeners choose to plant them in lightweight containers and move them into the sun in the morning and into the shade later in the day.
Depending on your zone and the time in the season, your pansies may need to be watered more regularly if there hasn't been much rain. Remember, they like moist soil but dislike being soggy, so make sure any container plants drain properly. If your pansies are in a bed and seem overwatered, you may need to improve soil drainage. Try mixing in compost and mulch, but with a light touch — you don't want to trap excess moisture with too much mulch.
Pansies prefer soil with a lower pH level; too high, and they will not flower. Adding iron sulfate can lower your soil’s pH. You can also add a balanced fertilizer to your watering schedule to help your pansies produce more flowers. Always follow the dilution instructions on the package.
Pansies are usually planted as annuals, but in certain environments, they can come back a second season. The flowers are hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8, which includes regions in the pacific northwest, midwest, and southwest. In hotter zones, up to 11, plant pansies where they only get a couple of hours of sun — they’ll die if they get too hot.
Pansies need some maintenance to keep blooming with lots of flowers. Deadhead your plants by removing old flowers. This keeps the pansy looking neat, and it encourages more flowers to grow. Cut the stem of the faded flower to remove it from the plant. If your pansies are too tall, you can cut them back by a third, but make sure to leave foliage so they can keep growing
Since pansies are cold-tolerant plants, they can bloom all winter in milder locations. Farther north, they will stop blooming after the first hard freeze. If you did not deadhead all the flowers in the late fall, you may be able to collect the seed pods. On the other hand, if you let the pods just drop off, you might see some new plants come spring. If you consistently remove spent flowers, dig up the whole plant before the winter and begin again with new plants in the spring.
Taking a cutting from a healthy, mature plant is one of two ways to propagate your pansies. To do this, cut a stem 3 inches below a node. Remove the lower leaves and dip the stem in rooting hormone powder. Then plant the cutting in moist, well-draining soil.
Another way to grow new pansies is root division. Dig up a healthy pansy and break it into sections, with roots attached to each. Replant each section and take extra care until they are well established.
Anthracnose and Cercospora leaf spot are fungal diseases that affect pansies. When a plant has Anthracnose, dark brown spots appear on the leaves and stems. Small black spots appearing on the lower leaves when they are very wet are indicative of Cercospora leaf spots.
Fusarium wilt kills pansies quickly by root rot, so affected plants should be destroyed before the disease can spread. Pythium root rot causes the lower leaves to turn yellow. Try planting the pansy in a pathogen-free potting mix and applying a fungicide to save the plant.
Pests are a battle for most people who love to garden, and slugs are the pest of choice for pansies, since they both like moist soil If your pansies are in a shady area, use slug bait to get rid of the pests. Aphids and spider mites can leave holes or brown spots on pansy leaves. An insecticide that is safe for plants should get rid of them.
Pansies are a popular border plant, lining spring garden beds in front of daffodils or tulips. For fall, they layer wonderfully with chrysanthemum. This versatile plant is also easy to grow in containers, which opens up tons of placement options.
Pansies are part of the violet family, as are violas, which feature slightly smaller blooms though fewer color options. Johnny-jump-ups are also similar, with much smaller but more plentiful flowers than pansies. The growing conditions of all three are comparable, though violets need a bit more shade.
Pansies are considered a safe plant for pets and people. In fact, their evergreen-flavored blooms and leaves are edible — some people even use them to garnish cakes. Indulge in some whimsy by floating the petals in drinks for decoration or adding them to salads.
Choose from over 500 varieties of pansies to add color to your garden. The flowers come in three basic patterns: clear, whisker, and blotched. Clear pansies are one solid color on all petals. Whisker pansies have thin black streaks on the three lower petals. Blotch pansy varieties have large, dark blotches of color on the three lower petals, usually a deep purple. The coloration makes them look almost like little faces.