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Pansies, like many perennials, don’t like wet feet. Unlike most summer perennials, they thrive in the fall and winter – a somewhat rainy season for much of the U.S. For gardeners in soggier growing zones, pansies’ preference for well-drained soil begs the question: can pansies grow in pots?
They certainly can! Plus, growing pansies in a pot allows for their delicate faces to shine: alone in a statement planter, or as bright patches of color or low-growing trailing plants among taller perennials. Growing pansies in a pot is an easy way to control moisture and soil type, and container grown pansies can flourish when given the right doses of those two must-haves. So here are a few tips that will keep your potted pansy plants happy:
Pansies can be grown from seed 14 to 16 weeks before planting, usually in late January. If you’re starting pansies from seeds, use grow lights or a sunny windowsill to nourish your container grown pansies, and keep the soil moist. You can also give them a diluted fertilizer after the seed starts have begun to leaf.
Once the starts are a few inches tall, choose a container and a good potting mix for your pansies. Make sure the potting mix is fairly light, and select a container with drainage holes, as potted pansy plants prefer well-drained soil.
You may add some slow-release fertilizer to the potting mix, according to the package instructions, before popping your pansies into their new pots. Leave a few inches between each plant.
To keep up with caring for your container grown pansies, water the flowers regularly so that the soil is always moist but not soggy. Indirect sunlight is best for these containers. Add a small amount of blood meal or a store-bought fertilizer mix to your potted pansy plants every few weeks, and pinch off any overly leggy growth to keep the plants well-shaped.
Pansies grown in pots can be left outdoors through the winter – just give them a deep watering before a hard freeze, and consider covering them during any extremely frigid weather.
With a little planning ahead, growing pansies in a pot is an easy way to keep your walkway, front steps or container garden bright through early fall and into winter.
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Pansies (Viola spp.) quickly fill a pot or other container with dense foliage and brightly colored blooms. These short-lived perennials thrive in cool weather summer heat or prolonged frost kills them, so they are usually grown as annual flowers. Pansies grow best during the spring or fall or as a winter flower in mild climates. They require temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, although they can survive warmer temperatures with some protection, and light frost rarely kills them.
Fill a pot with moist potting soil to within two inches of the rim. Plant the pansies at the same depth in the pot they were growing at previously. Plant one plant in a 6- to 8-inch diameter pot. In larger pots, space the pansies about four inches apart in all directions.
Set the pot in a location that receives six-to-eight hours of direct sunlight. Move the pot to an area that receives four-to-six hours of morning sun but light afternoon shade when daytime temperatures are above 70 degrees to prolong flowering.
Insert your finger into the soil to check the moisture level daily. Water the pansies when the top inch of soil begins to feel dry. Empty any excess water from the drip tray beneath the pot if you are using one. Pansies may require twice daily watering during warmer weather.
Water pansies every two weeks with a soluble 5-10-5 or similar blend of fertilizer. Dilute the fertilizer in water at the package-recommended rate.
Pinch off the dead flowers as they wilt to prevent them from forming seeds and to encourage further budding. Pinch leggy or overgrown stems back to a leaf or bud to force fuller, bushier growth.
Intro: Pansies are hybrid flowers that were developed in England in the early 1800s. Because pansies have been selectively bred by humans, they are hardy and bloom quickly. Flower colors include yellow, gold, orange, purple, red and white, and pansy flowers often have “faces” (think of the singing flowers in Alice in Wonderland). Pansy flowers are easy to care for and do well in container gardens.
Scientific Name: Viola × wittrockiana
Plant Type: Annual/biennial hybrid flower
Light: Sun to partial sun
Water: If they are kept in well-drained potting soil, make sure to water your pansy flowers about once a week. Do not overwater or let the water sit in the container.
Propagation: Grow pansy flowers from seeds.
Misc. Info: Pansies survive better in cooler weather (they can tolerate light freezes and frosts), but they do not do well in heat. Give pansy flowers fertilizer, perhaps once a week, to keep them strong, and remove blooms that are past their time to promote new blooms (this is called "deadheading"). Deadheading the pansy flowers will inhibit the development of seeds, though, if you’d like to collect the seeds. As with most plants, the pansy plant benefits from mulch, which helps keep moisture in and weeds out of their plant container.
Ornamental green foliage provides texture when planted in a garden with flowers. Foliage companions of pansies include ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea) and giant red mustard (Brassica juneca). Not only visually appealing but edible, giant red mustard plants require full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. This plant thrives in raised beds, as well as containers. It stands approximately 2 to 3 feet at mature height. A giant red mustard plant provides a balance of color and texture in a garden with pansies.
Plants do not respond well to freezing dry, and this is very true for pansies and pansy cousins. Growing becomes less vigorous after wilting so while you can let them get a bit dry, avoid letting them wilt. Make sure containers drain well they also don’t like overly wet conditions. Watch watering in covered areas these containers only get the water you give them. If we are scheduled for lows under 25 degrees and haven’t had recent rainfall, water 24 to 48 hours before these low temps. This will give your plants time to absorb the water. Excluding the spacing tips (regular pansies, panolas and violas will need to be planted much closer together to fill in well), these tips are true for all pansies, panolas and violas. For more information on the difference between these closely related plants, check out this blog post.
Thanks for reading all about Cool Wave Pansies with us. We look forward to seeing you this fall. And yes, we know it’s been a hot beginning to the season but temperatures are cooling down and if you continue to wait, you might miss out on your favorite pansy colors!