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Your Winter Garden – Pansies

winter-pansyOne of the benefits of living in the south and plant hardiness zones 6, 7 and 8 is that we can plant and enjoy pansies in the winter landscape. Pansies are a remarkable winter annual capable of surviving temperatures down to the single digits, freezing solid, then bouncing back with vigor when warm weather returns. Pansies are planted by the millions and are one of the top-selling bedding plants for fall landscapes.

Intensive breeding programs provide us with an amazing array of pansy flower colors, ranging from white to rich gold, purple, red, rose, maroon, orange and violet, with many shades in-between. You can also choose from solid colors (called ‘clear’-faced pansies) to blotches (having a darker, contrasting center, often referred to as ‘faced’ pansies), to two-tones, and all sorts of color blends and pastel shades. Some varieties have petals with crinkled or ruffled edges. Others have large flowers up to 4 inches in diameter.

The modern pansy, Viola x wittrockiana, is thought to have evolved from Viola tricolor, Johnny Jump-up, a common native of central Europe. The Greeks in the 4th Century B.C. used them as medicinal herbs for curing respiratory problems and colds. By 1850, many pansy strains were available to European gardeners, soon making their way to the North American market. By 1900, pansies were a popular North American annual. Today, there are more than 300 varieties of pansies, including many hybrids bred for improved heat tolerance, unusual flower colors, larger flower size and plant vigor. Johnny Jump-ups are still popular among landscapers, some of whom prefer them and say they are more cold-hardy than pansies.

This publication provides guidelines for the planting and care of pansies to ensure success, including planting time, bed preparation, plant spacing, planting procedures, fertilization, freeze protection, and common insect and disease problems. Since seasonal color is a high-cost investment in the landscape, it is important to get the maximum return on your investment by following these planting and cultural guidelines.

Success with Pansies in the Winter Landscape: A Guide for Landscape Professionals planting pansies
Gary L. Wade and Paul A. Thomas,
Extension Horticulturists

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