Pansies in the Landscape

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How fortunate are we to live in a place where we can grow plants with the ability to bloom when days are bleak and some nights not fit for man nor beast? There are few that can defy winter’s cold with dainty, colorful flowers. Pansies are among them.

Pansies are cool weather plants that thrive when soil temperatures are between 45° and 65° F. They come in a range of clear colors including red, white, blue, lavender and even black. They can be blotched or have dark centers or slender black lines called whiskers. Some are sweetly scented. They can be used in masses of color, as edging and in containers throughout the landscape.

In our area, pansies are best planted during October. Choose healthy, green compact plants that are disease and insect free. Avoid overgrown, spindly or root bound plants. Providing well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter will optimize Pansiesnutrient and water holding abilities and will deter root rot. Applying mulch after planting helps regulate moisture and temperature levels. Wilt is a normal defense to cold weather. Healthy plants can survive short periods in the single digits. For prolonged periods, when air temperatures are expected below 20°F, mulch with materials, such as pine straw, over the entire bed and remove when the cold spell has passed.

Deadheading and pinching back of leggy stems improve appearance and help protect against disease and insects. Water frequently, as roots can freeze in dry, frigid soil. Apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting and halfway through the growing season or provide a water-soluble fertilizer every one to four weeks. Common pests include spider mites, aphids and slugs. For recommended controls, contact your local extension office.

It should be noted that pansies not only provide us with great color and fragrance, but they also hold an attraction to our four-legged friends, and I use that term loosely. Pansies are sometimes referred to as “deer candy”. Use of fences, barriers and commercial repellents can be effective. Be sure to follow label instructions. For more information, go to this article from Clemson University, Pansies and Johnny-Jump-Ups.

Pansies are a great addition to the winter landscape. There is nothing like a tiny, colorful bloom peeking out from under the snow to remind us to appreciate the beauty of each season.

Gail Griffin is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.