Pansies have played a starring role in gardens around the world since they were first developed in the 1800s by an English gardener. Originally called Heartsease, pansies were created by crossing different members of the viola family until a plant appeared that produced large flowers with blotched faces. The very first pansy variety was called ‘Medora’. Today, there are more than 300 different varieties of pansy in a rainbow of colors that range from orange, white, purple, violet, red, mauve, yellow, blue, and black. Bloom size varies from a 1/2 inch to 3 inches wide. And, pansy flowers feature a mix of looks: blotched “faces,” solid-color petals, ruffle-edge petals, and vintage-style types with delicate pencil edging.
Pansies are a lot easier than you might think. These low-growing beauties actually prefer cool weather, and some varieties bloom all winter long, even occasionally sending up a flower through snow. The trick is to plant them in fall or early spring when the weather is cool and moist.
Although you can grow pansies from seed, it’s much easier to buy young plants in pots or flats at your local garden center. Look for short, stocky plants with bright green foliage. Avoid tall, leggy pansies. A healthy plant should look like its ready to burst into bloom.
In the past few years, trailing of pansies have also become available. These vigorous plants can spread up to 2 feet and are ideal for hanging baskets or window boxes. They also make excellent “spillers” planted at the edge of large planters.
Once hot weather arrives, most pansies will shrivel and die. Otherwise, all they need is a sunny to partially sunny location and rich, slightly moist soil. Pansies are extremely healthy, and aren’t affected by most pests and diseases. However, slugs may find them tasty; apply an organic slug bait if you find them dining on your plants.
To increase pansies’ flower production, remove the faded flowers as they appear. This promotes a constant supply of new blooms.
See some of my favorite cool-season annuals to plant with pansies.