One of my mom’s favorite flowers to grow is a pansy. Every year in the fall, we went on a search for the perfect tray of pansies. Some years she liked to plant a mix of colorful pansies, and other years she planted a solid color for a big impact statement.
Pansies are in the Violaceae family, which has more than 500 species. Violas originally come from Europe, and our modern-day pansy is a hybrid cultivar that was developed in the mid-1800’s.
The plant breeders in the Europe used hybridization to breed a plant that was vigorous and had a flower with no dark blocks or lines. Thanks to these breeding programs, you can now find pansies in all kinds of shades of orange, blue, purple, and pink.
Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are a great cool-season annual plant for Texas. They are cold hardy, so we can get away with planting them in the fall to enjoy the blooms through the winter. Pansies really shine in early spring with big blooms while the rest of our plants are waking up to springtime. The miniature version of pansies is called Johnny-Jump-Up (Viola tricolor), which has a smaller flower that is typically purple, blue, and yellow all on the same flower.
Plant pansies in the fall when soil temperatures are between 45- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit, so they have a chance to establish a good root system before cold weather. Plant in full sun, spaced about six to 10 inches apart. Incorporate one cup of slow-release fertilizer and two pounds of a bone meal and blood meal mixture into a 50 square foot bed.
Water pansies every day for the first week, then water twice a week or whenever the top inch of soil is dry. Pansies do not like to get too dry, so keep an eye on the water and add mulch to the bed to help conserve water. Pansies can handle cold temperatures, but you can help them survive another artic blast by covering them with freeze cloth or blankets. Water your plants well before a freeze to help protect them from the cold.
Unfortunately, some big and small pests love pansies as much as we do. Deer love to eat pansies, so do not plant them in a place where deer can reach them. Slugs, snails, and pill bugs will also eat pansies. Apply slug or snail bait every few weeks according to the label directions. A tuna can buried at ground level and filled with beer also makes an irresistible trap for slugs, snails, and pill bugs.
Enjoy some bright colorful pansies in your landscape this fall, winter, and early spring. I am looking forward to having some extra color in my landscape this winter when my native plants go dormant. For more information about lawn and garden topics, contact Kate Whitney, Williamson County Horticulture Extension Agent, at 512-943-3300.