One classic garden flower that you can recognize in a heartbeat, even if you are new to gardening, is the pansy.
Pansies are popular both for their unique appearance and for their bloom times, which are earlier or later than many other garden flowers.
This post is your in-depth guide to growing pansies successfully. You can jump to any section you need in the advanced jump below or read the entire guide for instructions on planting, care, and more.
- What Are Pansies?
- Pansy Basics
- Are Pansies Annual or Perennial?
- Where Do Pansies Grow?
- Why Grow Pansies?
- When Do Pansies Bloom?
- How Long Do Pansies Bloom?
- When to Plant Pansies
- Ideal Growing Conditions for Pansies
- How to Plant Pansies
- How to Propagate Pansies
- How to Care for Pansies
- Recommended Planting Combinations for Pansy
- Pansy Landscaping Ideas
- Recommended Pansy Varieties
- Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Pansies
- Where to Buy Pansies
What Are Pansies?
Pansies are some of the most distinctive-looking flowering plants that are popular in ornamental gardens. It may surprise you to learn that pansy is not a genus of plants. It actually is a type of hybrid, Viola × wittrockiana.
Violas are very similar-looking plants, though they produce smaller flowers in greater abundance than the hybrid pansies.
You can consider pansies to be a type of viola since they are a viola hybrid. But there are other types of violas that are not pansies.
Just to make life more confusing, plants in the Viola genus are part of the family Violaceae, which is the violet family. As that family’s largest genus, they are often what we are speaking about when we talk about “true violets.”
You can contrast that with African violets, which are not part of the same genus or family at all.
Sometimes people refer to pansies as violets. But in other cases, they might only refer to other smaller types of viola flowers as violets, referring to Viola × wittrockiana flowers only as “pansies.”
You can call them whatever you like. In this post, we are going to refer to Viola × wittrockiana as pansies. We may put together another guide for other types of violas/violets.
|Expected height:||Up to 9 inches (though more commonly just 2-3 inches)|
|Soil:||Fertile, well-draining soil|
|Sun:||Full to partial|
Are Pansies Annual or Perennial?
One of the most frequent misunderstandings about pansies concerns their status as annuals or perennials.
When you purchase pansy flats from the nursery, you will probably see them labeled as “annuals.” This may lead you to believe they will not survive the winter.
On the contrary, pansies are perennials. Moreover, they are hardy perennials.
We see varying claims about the hardiness zones for pansies, but the range runs all the way from 3 to 10.
Pansies appreciate cool, temperate climates, so they are most likely to survive as biennials or tender perennials if you have that type of climate.
That said, pansies often can survive harsh winters, even hard freezes, to return the next year.
But cold enough weather can kill them, especially frequent or lengthy dips below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pansies also dislike extremely hot weather. That means that if you live in a hot climate zone, there is a chance that it will be summer that kills your pansies and not winter.
So, in most locations, you probably will be able to enjoy the pansies you plant for a couple of years or several years.
But even if you do live in a climate zone where your pansies die within a year, do not fret. They typically reseed themselves with ease.
Where Do Pansies Grow?
As hybrid plants, pansies were originally cultivated in England. Pansies became popular throughout Europe and, later, North America. Now, they are grown throughout the world.
Offering more detail on where you can find pansies, North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox writes, “Field pansy is a native annual plant in the violet family found throughout much of North America and is an annual winter weed. It forms colonies in fields, along roadsides, and other disturbed sites such as prairies, pastures, and other waste areas. It is most abundant in sandy soils.”
Why Grow Pansies?
There is an abundance of great reasons to think about growing pansies in your garden. Here are just a few:
● Long-lasting blooms. If you happen to live in a temperate climate with relatively warm winters, you may be able to enjoy your pansy blooms during spring, fall, and winter. Even if you do not have warm winters, your pansies might bloom during both spring and fall.
● Usually disease-free. You typically are not going to have disease problems with pansies so long as you are properly caring for them and they are growing in the right conditions.
● A garden classic. If you ask most people to list garden flowers, a lot of folks are going to think of pansies pretty quickly. They are a favorite for many gardeners, who enjoy the distinctive look of their colorful faces.
● Winter interest. Not a lot of other plants are in bloom during the winter, but pansies may be, depending on where you live.
● Hardy to frost. Most plants are pretty vulnerable to frosts. Pansies can be harmed by frosts and freezes too, but they seem to tolerate them better than a lot of other plants.
● Great for most climate zones. Whether you have a warm climate, a cold climate, or one that is somewhere in between, you can probably grow pansies successfully.
● Self-seeding. Even though pansies are short-lived perennials and biennials, they go to seed and produce new plants pretty easily. So, if you buy a few pansies this year, you probably will still have pansies growing in your garden years from now.
● Simple and easy care. While pansies require a bit of attention, they are relatively low-maintenance, making them an excellent option for gardeners at all skill levels.
● A range of colors. Usually, when we picture pansies, our minds automatically jump to purplish flowers, but pansies actually come in a variety of different attractive hues. See the section on recommended cultivars later on in this post to discover some types of pansies you will love.
When Do Pansies Bloom?
The bloom period for pansies depends on where you live. You can expect them to flower when the daytime temperatures are around 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the nighttime temperatures are around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a lot of locations, that means that pansies are in bloom during spring and/or autumn. If you live in a hot climate with temperate winters, your pansies may bloom during the winter months.
Unless you have cool summers, you should not expect pansies to bloom during summer. In fact, sufficient heat may kill them off. Even if it doesn’t, they will stop flowering and might wilt.
Since late spring, summer, and early fall are the most common bloom times for many other garden plants, a lot of gardeners plant pansies to bloom when those other plants are not in flower.
How Long Do Pansies Bloom?
In many locations, pansies are able to bloom for months on end.
When to Plant Pansies
Like many other perennials in your garden, pansies prefer to be planted in spring or fall. It is easiest for them to establish in these temperate conditions.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Pansies
If you want your pansy plantings to be successful, you first need to know the ideal conditions for these hybrid flowers to thrive. Let’s look at sun, water, and soil requirements for pansies.
How Much Sun Do Pansies Need?
Full sun or partial shade is suitable for pansies. Which is best depends on where you live. If the climate is hot, you might want to go for partial shade. But if it is cooler, the full sun may be good.
The best time for shade is afternoon since this is when the sun tends to be most oppressive for plants.
What Type of Soil is Right for Pansies?
Like most other plants in your garden, pansies appreciate moist, well-drained soil but not soggy soils. Fertile soil is ideal.
The pH of your soil should ideally be around 5.4 to 5.8. You do not want to plant your pansies in alkaline soil.
If your soil is too alkaline, one of the best ways to drop the pH is to add compost. This will also add richness and improve drainage, making it a great all-in-one soil improver.
Other options for making your soil pH more acidic include sulfur, leaf mold, or pine needle mulch.
How Much Water Do Pansies Need?
You can follow the same instructions you do to water pansies as you do most perennials in your garden, which is to give them about 1 inch of water weekly. The best time to do this is in the morning during the growing season. If precipitation takes care of it on some weeks, you do not need to provide any extra water on those weeks.
Apparently, a lot of people under-water their pansies, so this is something to watch out for. Of course, you do not want to overdo it either, or you will end up inviting problems with fungal disease.
How to Plant Pansies
The most common way to purchase pansies is in containers called flats. Typically, there will be about a half dozen pansies in a single flat.
Below are instructions for planting pansies from flats in your flower beds or containers. After that, we will talk about how you can propagate pansies from seeds or cuttings. We will also explain how to divide them.
Here is how to plant pansies in your flower beds:
1. Pick a location to plant the pansies and prepare the soil before planting. Soil amendments such as peat moss or manure can help improve richness. Compost or other organic materials may also improve drainage if you are trying to plant the pansies in heavy soil.
If you find any rocks in the soil while you are prepping it, discard them.
2. Dig holes for your pansies. You should space pansies 7-12 inches from each other.
3. Finish filling the soil in and water well.
Pansies make excellent container plants. Here is how you can grow pansies in pots:
1. Choose containers for your pansies. Since these are small plants, hypothetically, you can pick small, medium, or large containers. But it is recommended that whatever size you go with, you stick with something that is relatively easy to pick up and move. That way, during the hot summer months, you can try relocating your pansies to a shaded spot where they are more likely to survive.
2. If your containers do not yet have drainage holes, make them.
3. Fill your containers with potting mix.
4. Create holes for the pansies and plant them in the containers.
5. Finish filling in the soil and water well.
Remember, pansies in pots can dry out faster than those in your flower beds, so keep that in mind for your long-term watering schedule.
How to Propagate Pansies
Pansies self-seed, so that is arguably the simplest way to propagate them. Just let them spread. But you can also start them from seed deliberately, or you can propagate them from cuttings or divisions. Let’s go over directions for each.
Starting Pansies from Seed
Some gardeners just let their pansies self-seed without attending to them. But if you want to grow pansies from seed in a more controlled fashion, it is recommended that you start them indoors. The ideal time for this is 10-12 weeks before you expect the last frost.
1. Get well-draining containers and fill them with potting mix.
2. Moisten the potting mix.
3. Sow the seeds on top of the soil
4. Add a layer of soil on top of the seeds. You do not want to bury them deeply, but you do want them covered. While some seeds require light to germinate, pansy seeds require the exact opposite.
5. Place a lid of some kind on top of the container. It should be opaque to prevent light from seeping in.
6. Wait for the seeds to germinate. Keep them at a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. On occasion, use a spray bottle to moisten the potting mix.
8. After around two weeks, the seeds should sprout. At this stage, you should uncover them and expose them to light. Wait for them to continue developing.
9. When the seedlings are developed enough for transplanting, harden them. This means bringing them outside for progressively longer periods of time so they can adapt.
10. Transplant the seedlings into containers or your garden beds.
Another option for starting pansies from seeds is to plant the seeds directly outdoors instead of starting them indoors.
Utah State University says, “If you plant seed in boxes or frames, you can broadcast the seed or plant it in rows. Select boxes 9 to 12 inches deep, and fill them with rich, sandy loam soil.”
The university continues, “If you plant in open beds it is always better to sow seeds in rows about 4 to 6 inches apart instead of broadcast. This makes it easier for you to identify the seedlings when they emerge, and permits you to cultivate and weed more readily.”
We recommend you visit Utah State University for detailed directions if you want to go this route. Otherwise, just start them indoors where you will have greater control over their initial growing conditions.
Starting Pansies from Cuttings
If you want to propagate pansies from cuttings, here is how to do it:
1. Take some cuttings from pansies. You want to cut right below a leaf node because the leaf node can produce roots.
3. Leave the upper leaves on the cuttings, but take off the lower leaves.
4. Get containers and fill them with potting mix.
3. Use a chopstick or something similar to make little holes in the potting mix for the cuttings.
4. Dip the ends of the pansy cuttings in the rooting hormone.
5. Plant the cuttings in the holes you made. Push the potting mix gently around the stems to secure them in place.
6. Use a spray bottle to moisten the potting mix.
7. Cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag or similar cover. Do not let it touch the cuttings.
8. Keep a watch over the cuttings and re-moisten the soil when it needs it. Wait for them to root.
9. When the roots are well developed, transplant your new pansies.
How to Divide Pansies
From an appearance/health standpoint, it isn’t really necessary to divide pansies since they only live for a few years anyway. But you can divide them for propagation purposes if you wish.
1. Use a trowel to dig a circle around a pansy that you want to divide. Dig far enough away from the plant that the roots will not be harmed.
2. Push your trowel under the roots and lift up, so the plant comes out of the ground.
3. Gently brush away the excess soil.
4. Now, you can see what you are doing. You should be able to divide the plant by hand, but you can use the trowel to help if you need it. All of your divisions will need to have enough roots to be healthy.
5. Dig holes, plant your newly-divided pansies, backfill the soil, and water well.
How to Care for Pansies
If you want healthy plants, you need to take proper care of your pansies. Below, we go over what they need from you in terms of fertilizing, mulching, and other forms of maintenance.
How to Fertilize Pansies
Before you plant your pansies, you can consider amending the soil with 5-10-5 fertilizer. But you can also simply use manure.
Utah State University says, “During the growing season application of 5-10-5 every 3 or 4 weeks will help give you bigger, brighter flowers on sturdy plants. An average rate is about 1 pound per 50 square feet of pansy bed. Liquid fertilizer can also be used.”
The university also advises against using fertilizers that contain high amounts of nitrogen. These types of fertilizers can make pansies more prone to rot. The site also recommends that you choose a slow-release organic fertilizer.
How to Mulch Pansies
Pansies can really benefit from mulch at a couple of times of the year: summer and winter. In both cases, the purpose of the mulch involves temperature regulation.
Mulching pansies is important in summer if you have hot temperatures. Doing so will help lock moisture into the soil, which will increase the chances that the pansies survive the summer to bloom again in the fall.
What about in winter? If you have a climate where the cold will threaten your pansies but may not kill them, you can improve their odds of survival by placing straw mulch on the ground around them. This layer will help to insulate the soil.
How to Stake Pansies
It should not be necessary to stake your pansies. These are typically very short plants, and staking them doesn’t make a lot of sense.
That said, pansies can sometimes get droopy. Usually, this is in response to hot weather or dry conditions. So, if your pansies keep flopping over, that means you might need to move them somewhere they have more shade and/or put some mulch down to lock in moisture and keep the soil cooler.
How to Prune Pansies
Let’s talk about what you need to do to prune your pansies. A little attention to deadheading and trimming can keep them looking their best.
How to Deadhead Pansies
You can encourage your pansies to keep producing blooms by deadheading them. Just pinch the flowers off by hand, or use a pair of shears to trim off the stems. Either method is fine.
When to Cut Back Pansies
If you have hot summers, you should trim back your pansies during those blazing months. Doing so will help maintain moisture and increase the odds of the pansies making it through the summer months.
Another situation where you might need to do some trimming is when your pansies are looking leggy. Cut off about 50% of each of the leggy stems. But do not take off so much that the leaves are gone on any of them.
Are Pansies Vulnerable to Diseases or Pests?
Pansies can sometimes be afflicted with diseases such as leaf spot, downy mildew, powdery mildew, rust, gray mold, root rot, crown rot, and mosaic viruses. These issues are more likely to be pervasive if you plant your pansies in soil that drains poorly or if they do not have enough airflow. Overhead watering can also cause problems.
So long as you are taking proper care of your pansies and you are growing them in suitable conditions, diseases are not likely.
As far as pests are concerned, spider mites and aphids are common. Slugs and snails also can be a problem for pansies.
Mammals can also pose significant issues for pansies since deer and rabbits alike tend to enjoy how they taste.
So, if you have any deer-resistant plants growing in your garden, you might want to place them near your pansies to serve as a deterrent. Nevertheless, you probably are going to have a hard time dissuading unwanted visitors.
Recommended Planting Combinations for Pansy
What are some other perennials that work well planted with pansies? Check out a few suggested companion plants:
● Mums: These fall-blooming perennials can create a breathtaking display alongside your pansies.
● Daisies: Like pansies, daisies enjoy partial to full sun. The contrasting appearance of the daisies mixed in with your pansy blooms will make for an eye-catching combination.
● Buttercups: As you have learned from this post, pansies bloom best in cool conditions. This is also true for buttercups.
● Bleeding hearts: These plants make nice companions for spring-blooming pansies. Keep in mind that bleeding hearts like more shade than pansies, but there might be spots where you can make them work (perhaps in a woodland garden).
Pansy Landscaping Ideas
Here are some of the ways you can use pansies in your landscaping:
● Borders: A lot of people like to plant pansies as a border along a walkway, driveway, etc. You can also use them as borders for individual flower beds containing other plants.
● Contrasting colors: Because pansies can be planted fairly densely and are available in contrasting hues, a lot of people like to plant rows of them in different colors. You can get well-defined bands of color this way, creating a really stunning and formal effect.
● Containers: Pansies are generally quite happy growing in containers and can bring a lot of color to your patio and other outdoor spaces. You could try hanging them in baskets as well.
● Lawn: Another idea for landscaping with pansies is simply to plant them in your lawn. They will self-seed and spread pretty easily.
One thing to keep in mind if you plant pansies in containers and put them on your patio is that concrete can reflect sunlight and magnify the heat. That extra heat can also cause them to dry out quickly. So, during the warm summer months, your pansies might struggle if they are in pots on your patio without afternoon shade. You might need to move them for part of the year.
Recommended Pansy Varieties
Many gardeners who are new to growing pansies are startled by the astonishing variety available when shopping for pansy cultivars. Online, in particular, the selection will amaze you. Here are some pansy cultivars to think about adding to your garden.
● Frost: This exquisite cultivar is perfectly named. The blooms have a delicate look to them, with petals in white and pale blue. Dark veins near the centers of Frost pansies add to their visual interest.
● Neon Violet: If really deep purple flowers are what you are after, the intense hue of this cultivar will satisfy your itch.
● Viva La Violet: Do you want purple pansies with especially large blooms? The “Viva La Violet” cultivar produces big flowers that are a deep violet color with a dark, almost black color in the center and white surrounding it.
● Rhinegold: For pansy plants that produce yellow flowers, think about this sunny variety. The petals are bright yellow with dark brownish marks.
● Raspberry Swirl: For pansy flowers with a distinctive blend of colors, think about getting this cultivar. The name refers to the “raspberry” reddish-pinkish hue of the blooms, which is “swirled” with creamy yellowish patches in the centers.
● Pure Golden Yellow: If you want flowers that are solid yellow with no dark or light patches, you can plant this cultivar of pansy.
● Pure Light Blue: Just as you would expect, this is a pansy that produces flowers that are pure pale blue. You will see yellow in the very center of each bloom, like a little yellow sun in a clear sky.
● Matrix Solar Flare: The colorful blooms of this bold cultivar will draw your eye from anywhere in your garden. They are a fiery orangey-reddish color with bits of yellow surrounding the dark marks near their centers.
● Orange Sun: One pansy with a particularly distinctive and striking hue is this one. The blooms are a solid apricot orange color.
● Cool Wave White: Want a pansy that produces all-white blooms? This cultivar will delight you with its white flowers and trailing stems.
● Moulin Rouge: Perhaps one of the most delightful and colorful types of a pansy you can purchase is the Moulin Rouge variety. The petals come in shades of reddish, purplish, pinkish, and yellow, and they are fantastically ruffled.
● Black Accord: One of the most unusual colors of a pansy you will find is the “Black Accord.” Usually, flowers that are marketed as “black” are actually a really dark purple. And that is technically true here as well, but you really cannot tell with many of the blooms. They truly appear black to the eye. That means they will stand out magnificently in your garden. Consider planting them together with pansies that are orange or yellow to make them really pop.
● Nature Orange: This is another option for a type of pansy that is completely orange.
● Wonderfall: Do you like smooth color gradients? If so, the ombre look of “Wonderfall” will dazzle and delight you. The blooms are purple with a ring of slightly lighter purple surrounding darker purple in the middle. Because all three colors are fairly close to one another in hue, the transitions between them look fairly smooth. Their trailing growth habit is what gives them their name.
● Jolly Joker: Arguably, the most eye-popping color combination you will find on a pansy is the mix of bright orange and dark purple petals on the “Jolly Joker.”
● Majestic Giants: As the name implies, this mix features particularly large blooms. They come in a variety of colors, including purple, white, yellow, and reddish.
● Pastel Mix: Consider getting this mix if what you are after is a blend of pale yellows, creams, and blues.
● Silverbride: This pansy produces flowers with pale petals that feature dark purple marks.
● Yellow blotch: You can probably picture this cultivar of pansy pretty easily from its name. The petals are yellow and feature brown blotches.
● Sunrise: A really unique-looking pansy, “Sunrise’ features ruffled petals with variegated hues of pink, red, yellow, and cream.
● Chalon Supreme: These pansies feature ruffled petals with dark blotches and light purplish and white edges.
That is just a hint of the wondrous diversity of pansy cultivars that await your discovery!
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Pansies
Let’s answer a few frequently asked questions about pansies to wrap up our guide to these beloved tender perennials.
If something has been nibbling on your pansies, there are a lot of possibilities. It could be dear, rabbits, slugs, snails, or insects. You will need to consider the extensiveness and form of the damage to try and figure out which garden pests are causing you trouble.
The most common reasons for pansy leaves to turn brown around their edges are either giving the plants too much water or too little.
Since pansies can thrive in temperate conditions, you might wonder whether this makes them suitable as indoor plants.
Well, that depends. Growing pansies successfully indoors requires three things:
● Adequate humidity
● Cool temperatures
● Ample sunlight
You probably will not have a lot of trouble with the sunlight requirement, so long as you have a sunny spot in your home somewhere.
As far as temperatures go, remember, pansies bloom most when it is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most homes are kept too warm for this. But if your temperatures are often in the 60s, you might be able to get away with indoor pansies.
As to the moisture requirement, you can place a tray under your pansies’ pot and fill it with water and pebbles.
Yes, pansies are cold hardy. They can even live through a hard freeze. But this does not mean that they can live through the harshest winters. If it gets too cold, they will still die off.
No, pansies are not toxic to dogs or cats. In fact, Rover.com says, “Lively and sweet, these wonderful flowers are not only non-toxic for dogs, they’re apparently also tasty.”
So, there you have it. You do not have to worry about your dog or cat getting into your pansies—at least with respect to your pet. You might need to worry about the pansies, though, if your dog thinks they are a delicious snack!
In some locations, yes, pansies are winter flowers. This is the case in hot climate zones with balmy winter temperatures.
Yes, they do. So even though pansies only last a few years (or less, depending on the type of pansy and your climate zone), you should see new pansies growing continuously.
Where to Buy Pansies
If you want to bring the long-lasting beauty of pansy blooms to your garden, you can shop for them at your local garden center, or you can buy them online. Click below to shop pansy varieties online now.