It’s pansy planting time here in the southeast. We are busy cleaning up the spent begonias and petunias before they turn to mush in the next week or two. Then we replace them with pansies. Glorious pansies.
I like pansies for several reasons:
- They brighten up the winter landscape.
- They seem to be hardy enough to survive the harshest winters.
- Pansies not only offer a beautiful flower, but they offer it when not much else does.
- A bed of pansies will offer a wonderful show of color when it matures in the spring.
- They are nicely fragrant and offer a source of cut flowers for inside.
Actually, with these flowers, the more you pick, the more you get.
When I was a teenager, in the late fifties and early sixties, I can remember my grandmother and my mother purchasing pansy plants. They didn’t come in six packs or pots like they do today. They were sold bare root, wrapped up in bits of moist newspaper or in paper towels like the ones that were available at the gas station for washing windshields. (Of course, at that time, you didn’t have to wash your own windshield, either, you drove up to the pump, said, “give me two dollars,” and they pumped your eight gallons of gas, washed your windshield, and checked your tires and oil.)
Pansies later started appearing in stores in six packs, usually 36 plants to a flat (tray). Now they are in all sized containers and are available 18 plants to a flat, in round 4 inch pots, and in larger sizes. I find that it is cost effective to go with the six packs as you get twice (or more) plants for the money and that means they can be planted thicker for less money.
When buying pansies, I look for the following:
- First, ask when the plants will be delivered and meet the truck. Get them fresh from the nursery. This gives the nursery (or big store) less time to mess them up.
- Look at the plant, not the bloom. Look for plants that are stout, not stretched out.
- Pull a random plant out of the container and look at the roots. They should be white and well formed. Do not buy plants with brown roots.
- Look for indications of grey, powdery mildew. Avoid any that show this fungal disease.
- Remember, unless instant gratification is too slow for you, bigger is not always better. They will grow.
When you purchase the pansy plants, also ask for a package of Osmocote. This is a time-release fertilizer that I use religiously with my bedding plants.
The technique for planting is basically the same as with any bedding plant.
- Choose a location with as much light as possible, preferably use a prepared bed.
- Space the plants 6 to 8 inches apart.
- Dig a hole that is approximately half again the size of the container.
- Sprinkle in a half a teaspoon of Osmocote.
- Chop up the dirt from the hole and fill it back in.
- Mulch with pine straw or wood chips and water them in
- That’s it!!
- You will find that if you pick the spent blooms (deadheading) and/or pick for cut flowers, you will get an increased yield of flowers.
It doesn’t hurt when the plants are freshly planted to pour a little liquid feed over them. Use something like Peter’s, or Hyponex. I really like Schultz’s plant food (no relation).
Enjoy your pansy bed. The only hard part is when you have to pull them out in the late spring to replace them with summer annuals.
John P. Schulz