The summer annual flowers are beginning to fade with the onset of cooler weather. They will be removed and replaced with winter flowering plants, with pansies being the most popular and widely planted.
These plants are a species of violets that are durable, can survive low temperatures and prolonged cold spells. They reach their peak flowering in early spring. Often flower bulbs are planted in and amongst them to enhance their beauty.
Pansies come in different colors with some varieties having ruffled or crinkled edges.
Closely related to the pansies are another species of violets called violas. They have smaller flowers with a greater number of flowers on each plant. Johnny Jump-ups, or violas, are more heat tolerant than pansies. Both plants are extremely versatile and can be grown in window boxes, containers, and hanging baskets.
Planting them at the appropriate time is crucial. If planted too early while the weather is still hot, the plants will stretch, become weak and spindly. If planted too late in the season, they will not have enough time to become established and the risk of cold damage increases. The ideal time for planting pansies is Oct. 1 through November 15.
When purchasing plants, make sure they have dark green foliage with a few blooms and many flower buds. Avoid those with a pale, spindly appearance. Pull a couple out of the containers and examine the roots. They should be cream to white, and vigorously growing throughout the root ball. The top part of the plants should not break off easily at the base.
Pansies grow best in a location that receives full sun and they prefer moist well drained soils. Often the soil will require additions of organic soil amendments such as compost, topsoil, nature’s helper or some other suitable material. Broadcast an all-purpose complete balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 across the beds and work it into the soil. Use a fertilizer with a high nitrate nitrogen content. Make sure the plants are thoroughly watered in after planting. Apply mulch such as pine bark mini-nuggets one to two inches thick but avoid smothering the plants with it.
Periodically add a water soluble fertilizer with a similar nutrient ratio. Remove the old blossoms as they fade to encourage the plants to continue flowering.
Even though the pansies are cold tolerant, during periods of extreme or prolonged freezing weather, apply a small layer of pine straw over the plants to prevent cold damage. Remove the pine straw as the temperatures increase. When the weather becomes warmer later in the spring, the pansies will begin to fade out and die. Remove them and replace with summer flowering plants.
Pansies and Johnny Jump-ups are excellent flowers for the yard. If properly planted and maintained, they will color the winter landscape.
Timothy Daly, is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Agent with Gwinnett County Extension. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.