A long bench of pansies at the garden center is a sure sign that spring has arrived. These cool-weather plants flood the landscape with cheer after a long brown (or white) winter. But don't forget that they add a punch of maize, maroon, pumpkin, and almost-black to a fading September garden, too. Many varieties can even overwinter to return the following spring.
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Great Garden Combos
Pansies pair well with a host of early-blooming bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths, hyacinths, and snowdrops. They come in sizes ranging from petite Johnny-jump-ups to bold 'Majestic Giant' cultivars. For the best show, plant masses of nine to 12 plants for a carpet of color. In pots, they work alone or with favorites like flowering kale, dianthus, and sweet alyssum.
Pansy Care Must-Knows
Due to their short growing season, it's best to start pansies from seedlings purchased at a garden center. (However, pansies can be started from seed indoors about 12 weeks before the last frost.) Prepare the planting spot by incorporating a couple inches of well-decomposed compost or fill a container with quality potting mix.
In warm climates, pansies will flower all winter. Pansies thrive when soil temperatures are between 45°F and 65°F, generally that means planting them in October. If you plant too late, they won't grow much over the season. If you plant too early, the heat will scorch leaves and the stems will elongate.
When temperatures dip below 25°F, foliage will wilt and turn gray-green. If the lower temperatures are temporary, cover the planting bed with a bed sheet or a piece of thick plastic overnight to protect plants. Remove the covering when temperatures rise above 32°F.
In early summer, when pansy foliage begins to turn chartreuse or yellow and stems elongate, replace pansies with heat-loving annuals like marigolds, petunias, begonias, and coleus for continuing color.
More Varieties of Pansy
'Blue & Purple Rain' Pansy
Viola 'Blue & Purple Rain' is an award-winning selection with purple flowers that age to white then mature to purple and blue. It grows 12 inches tall and 16 inches wide.
'Bowles' Black' Pansy
Viola x wittrockiana 'Bowles' Black' sends out purple blooms that are so dark they appear black.
'Fizzy Lemonberry' Pansy
Viola x wittrockiana 'Fizzy Lemonberry' bears pale yellow, ruffly flowers edged in grape. It grows 8 inches tall and wide.
'Maxim Marina' Pansy
Viola x wittrockiana 'Maxim Marina' is a charming variety with purple, lavender, and white blooms.
'Karma Yellow' Pansy
Viola x wittrockiana 'Karma Yellow' produces soft yellow blooms in spring or fall. It grows 8 inches tall and wide.
'Velocity Baby Blue' Pansy
Viola williamsii 'Velocity Baby Blue' produces silvery blue-purple flowers on a mounded, compact plant (to 8 inches tall and wide). It has good heat resistance.
'Lavender with Yellow Eye' Pansy
Viola williamsii 'Lavender with Yellow Eye' shows off lavender-blue flowers with a yellow center. It grows 8 inches tall and wide and stands up to hot temperatures.
Pansy Companion Plants
Thank goodness for kale. It's one of the few plants that adds a burst of color in a fall landscape! Its leaves come with beautiful variegations in pinks, purples, and reds that blend beautifully with changing autumn foliage. Plant it in spring or fall after you tear out tired or frost-damaged annuals, such as marigolds and impatiens. It likes rich, well-drained but moist soil.
Osteospermum adds instant cheer to spring and fall gardens with its colorful, daisy-shape flowers and dark green foliage. They are wonderful for cutting and appear in a wide range of colors. In fact, it's such a striking plant that cut flowers sometimes look artificial. The plant does best in full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil. It likes cool weather; in hot-summer areas, it blooms best in spring and fall. Though grown as an annual in most parts of the country, it is perennial in Zones 10-11.
Snapdragons add easy charm to any garden. They get their name from the fact that you can gently squeeze the sides of the intricately shaped flower and see the jaws of a dragon head snap closed. The flowers come in gorgeous colors, including variations on each flower. Plus, snapdragons are an outstanding cut flower. A cool-season annual, they come into their own in early spring when the warm-season annuals, such as marigolds and impatiens, are just being planted. They're also great for fall color. Plant snapdragons in early spring, a few weeks before your region's last frost date. Deadhead regularly for best blooms and fertilize regularly. Snapdragons often self-seed if not deadheaded, so they come back year after year. But know that hybrid plants might come back with muddy-looking colors. In mild regions, the entire plant may overwinter if covered with mulch.