October is ideal time to plant great pansies

Published 4:20 pm Friday, October 14, 2022

By Gary R. Bachman

MSU Extension Service

This year is almost like clockwork; we hit Oct. 1, and we’re suddenly enjoying night temperatures in the 50s and 60s all across Mississippi. This is a welcome change from previous years when it seemed that summer would never go away. For once, planting our cool-season annuals seems to be right on schedule.

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I’ve visited quite a few independent garden centers over the last couple of weeks, and they’ve been gearing up for a colorful fall season.

I’ve written in the past about my preference for pansies, which may be the perfect cool-season choice for annual color, in my opinion. In my coastal Mississippi garden and landscape, you can be sure there will be an abundance of pansies on display.

I love the color selection that is available. The traditional flowers have a dark blotch in the center with a kaleidoscope of petal colors. I also like the pure single-color selections, called clear. When massed together, as pansies were meant to be planted, they create an impressive colorful landscape carpet.

Generally speaking, pansies can tolerate some really cold weather, depending on location and severity of the cold. When the temperature plunges, the flowers get nipped back, and it’s common for the foliage to turn a little purple.

I’m fortunate to garden in south Mississippi, where I’ve seen my pansies freeze solid for a few hours, thaw and begin flowering again a few days later.

There are wonderful pansy series available for your landscape.

A favorite of mine is the Matrix series. These pansies have freely branching growth habits, and they reach about 8 inches tall and wide. I love the color-coordinated mixes instead of the traditional, random color mixes.

Another can’t miss selection is the Delta series. These pansies have similar growth characteristics as Matrix and display huge flowers.

This past weekend, I discovered a new-to-me Delta pansy, Cotton Candy mix. The 3-inch flower pastel colors are a mixture of light blue, light pink, light yellow and light purple. Cotton Candy pansies might be a great choice for planting in the spring for Easter.

And did I mention that I love the ruffled flower petals of Cotton Candy? This is a feature that is unusual for pansies.

Pansies are pretty easy to care for if you follow a few basic tips. For the best flowering potential, pansies need consistent fertilization throughout the cool season. I always use controlled-release fertilizer at planting and follow that with supplemental fertilizer application, usually water soluble.

The quickest way to turn off flowering is to allow your pansies to dry out, so be sure to keep the root zone consistently moist.

Pansies will grow well in the ground, raised beds and containers. But you know my preference is for containers.

So don’t procrastinate buying your pansies this month.

The independent garden centers have great selections available now.

It doesn’t matter if you buy Matrix, Delta or any of the other series, because they’ll all look good in your garden this fall