From the Desk of Ed Hume: Winter Pansies

September 26, 2011 at 12:07 PM Leave a comment

Maybe one of the most overlooked Fall and Winter-flowering plants is the “Winter Pansy.” They provide a nice spot of color during the autumn months, flower during Winter warm spells, and burst into full bloom in springtime. Not only are they colorful in the garden, the cut flowers are ideal for small flower arrangements.

Nurseries, Garden Centers, and plant departments offer several different types of Winter-flowering pansies including typical pansies with faces as well as those that look more like violas. Some varieties have large pansy flowers while others are quite small. Personally, I like the smaller flowering varieties because as a rule they have more flowers and as the small flowers turn brown and die back they are not as noticeable. I have found the dying flowers of the large varieties need to be picked in order to keep the plants looking nice.

Winter pansies vary in a wide range of colors from white, yellow, pink, blue, purple, and orange to almost red, with some that are two-toned. I think the lighter, brighter colors are the most effective in the Fall and Winter garden. The darker colors seem to blend into the surroundings on dark, cloudy Fall and Winter days. As a result, we tend to use the whites, yellows, and light pinks and blues in our garden. However, the darker colors can be used effectively in containers near the entry or on the patio.

For the best effect, plant them in groups of three, five, seven, or more. I recommend that you plant them informally in a V shape rather than in a row. Also, they provide a wonderful display when the plants are all of the same color rather than mixed colors.

Plant the Winter pansies about six-to-nine inches apart. Add some compost; use processed manure (the bagged stuff) or another form of organic humus with your existing soil. Although pansies will grow just about anywhere, they are best suited to shade or part sun and shade locations in the garden.

When possible, pick off the spent flowers before they go to seed. Likewise, if the plants tend to become a bit spindly, pinch back the leggy growth to keep them bushy and more clean-looking in the garden.

Our Winter pansies from last year are still blooming in the garden right now. Not only that, they have been flowering all Summer and will continue to bloom this Winter as well. So if you take good care of the plants you can, like us, enjoy them for quite some time.

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