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.
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.