Plant cool-season pansies now for blooms all winter

Published 3:22 pm Sunday, November 14, 2021

By Gary R. Bachman
MSU Extension Service

I’m enjoying the changing weather that has finally arrived across Mississippi, and many of my summer annuals growing in planters and containers are getting a second wind. But, unfortunately for them, it’s time to get cool-season color planted.

A popular cool-season flowering annual that I always count on are pansies.

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Pansies have the ability to tolerate some really low temperatures; in fact, these plants can freeze solid and thaw with little damage. Open flowers get nipped back, and the leaves are tinged purple in response to the cold. After a couple of warmer days, the flowering show resumes and the plants keep on flowering until spring.

As I visited garden centers this past week, I marveled at the selection of these colorful cool-season annuals. My favorite is Matrix, but you can find quite a few other great series Delta, Majestic and other pansies available in the marketplace.

A pansy’s five petals are heart-shaped and arranged in an overlapping pattern. The flowers come in a wide variety of colors. I base my choices on another factor: whether the flowers are clear or blotched.

Clear flowers are pure colors that typically have the nice feature of a bright-yellow center eye. Blotched pansies display large, dark patches in the center of the petals, sometimes referred to as faces. These selections are sometimes thought of as traditional pansies.

Whether you choose clear, blotched or both types of flowers, mass-planted pansies can add a dramatic effect to the garden and landscape.

To get the most enjoyment and best performance from the pansy varieties you choose, be sure to follow these tips.

Pansies need consistent fertilization, and I like to add controlled-release fertilizer to the planting hole. Pansies also need consistent root zone moisture through the season, even during the winter.

The quickest way to turn off pansy flowering is to let the plants dry out. It’s easy to take care of both needs at the same time by watering and feeding with water-soluble fertilizer.

You can deadhead faded blooms to tidy the plants up, but this isn’t required maintenance.

Pansies are great choices for planting in containers for display on the porch or patio.

Be sure to use a good, professional container mix when growing in containers. Pansies in containers flower best in a south-facing location. Container-grown plants need a little more attention to watering and fertilization, but the extra effort is totally worth it.

Garden centers have a great selection right now, and fall is a fantastic time to get these into your garden and landscape.