Cool weather is perfect for pansies

Published 8:29 am Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The air has been crisp and cool, especially early morning.

This is perfect for planting cool loving plants such as the pansy and sibling, the viola.

Some of you couldn’t wait and surrendered to the colorful pots and hanging baskets of pansies so prominently displayed for that very reason.

Because the pansy loves cool, I tend to resist until late October or early November to purchase the plants. I finally finished my pansy presentation last week, and my yard as well as a few pots are beaming with pride.

We are fortunate as most of the nurseries have an abundant supply of colors and plants, including those with the dark center which is called a “face.”

Sometimes they are scented and are most fragrant at early morning and also dusk. Pansies are comfortable in containers, window boxes, edging and color massing during fall, winter and early spring.

You probably didn’t know that the pansy is actually a perennial that resists survival in hot weather. They also will reseed from time to time. You may have wondered about that stray plant that appeared from nowhere in the middle of your lawn.

Pansies and violas need morning sun and are planted 6 to 10 inches apart in rich well-drained organic soil.

Water well while planting and continue to water thorough the fall and winter if rain is slack.

They like morning water as this method discourages possible disease.

Fertilize while the soil is damp with a 5-10-10 granular slow-release fertilizer, again in late fall and again in early spring.

Mulch around (not touching) the pansies with two inches of organic material to conserve moisture and reduce weed growth.

Deadhead (remove) stems and flowers as they fade to promote better growth and blooms, rewarding you with a continuing display of color.

The violas or “Johnny-jump-ups,” have a much smaller flower, are heat resistant and are ideal for planting around bulbs and the larger pansy.

The colors are interesting and can be mixed and matched with a variety of plants. If you have a spot or an area that needs a makeover or a bit of color, purchase some fresh pansies and enjoy yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Gwen holt is a master gardener from Isle of Wight. Her e-mail address is Virginia Master Gardeners are volunteer educators who work within their communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices through sustainable landscape management education and training. As an educational program of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Master Gardeners bring the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.