Before a few years ago, winter landscapes had little or no color. Pansies became popular during the 1980s. Pansies have remarkable durability and add a rainbow of color to the winter landscape.
Pansies are among the most versatile bedding plants. In addition to using them in the landscape, you can plant them in window boxes, patio pots or hanging baskets. You can also plant pansies on top of bulb beds to provide winter color while the bulbs are establishing underground.
Growing a picture perfect pansy bed involves far more than simply selecting colors. Pansies have their own unique set of cultural requirements that are different from summer annuals. Planting time, for instance, is critical for pansy success. If you plant too early, before the weather cools, plants will often stretch and become weak and spindly in the late summer heat.
When this happens the plants become more susceptible to winter cold damage, diseases and insects. As a general rule, the ideal planting time for pansies in North Georgia is October, but can vary a few weeks depending on the weather.
Before planting, make certain the plants are well watered. A dry root ball is difficult to re-wet once it is in the ground.
Pansies bloom best when planted in full sun. They also like moist, well-drained soils and can not tolerate heavy wet soils.
A 10-inch spacing between plants is ideal for the best color display. This will require 143 plants per 100 square feet of bed area. Also make certain the plants are well mulched to prevent fluctuations in soil moisture between waterings.
Pinestraw can be an excellent mulch around pansies.
The fertilizer needs of pansies are also different from that of summer annuals. You can start off the season by broadcasting a complete balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, over the bed prior to planting at a rate of one pound per 100 square feet. Then, immediately after planting, water the bed thoroughly with a liquid fertilizer, such as 20-20-20 or 15-30-15 soluble fertilizer dissolved in water. When nighttime temperatures cool into the 40s, begin watering the plants once a week with a liquid fertilizer.
To keep pansies blooming well remove the old blossoms as they fade. This so-called "dead-heading" procedure prevents the formation of seed pods that rob the plant of its energy. Dead-heading the bed may be a once a week chore throughout the winter, but it results in much better flowering.
Few pests bother pansies, except for aphids during the spring months, but they are easily controlled.
Whether you plant a patio pot or a large bed, pansies are a great way to add color to your winter landscape.Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent.