Cultivating a Culture of Gardening™

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pansy Care

I was going to write an article on pansy care and then remembered reading this several years ago - these guys summed things up pretty well.
Simple care keeps pansies beautiful during winter
By Paul Thomas
and Gary Wade
University of Georgia
Colorful pansy beds take a bit of
time. But a few simple tasks can
keep them looking great and bloom-
ing for months whenever the weather
When the temperature drops be-
low 25 degrees Fahrenheit, pansy
foliage will wilt and turn gray-green.
This is normal.
On a winter day, the soil on the
south-facing slope of a pansy bed
can be 45 degrees while that on the
northern side, 10 feet away, is frozen
solid down to the root ball.
In that case, the roots can’t absorb
water from the frozen soil, so the
plants on the north side of the bed
dehydrate and die. Frozen soils and
drying winds can spell disaster for
One of the best ways to save pan-
sies from freeze injury is to apply
pine straw 2 to 4 inches thick over
the entire bed during extreme cold.
This helps trap heat in the soil,
prevents it from freezing and greatly
reduces exposure to cold, drying
wind. As a rule, do this only when
you expect the temperature to drop
below 20 degrees for a long time and
expect dry, cold winds to blow. Al-
ways do it whenever the soil may
freeze solid.
Carefully rake the pine straw off
when the cold weather passes.
times even in single-digit cold with-
out protection.
Fertilize pansies in late Decem-
ber, late January and late February.
But don’t use granular products.
When the soil drops below 50 de-
grees, pansy roots don’t take up the
nitrogen commonly used in granular
Instead, use a liquid fertilizer
containing at least half its nitrogen in
nitrate form.
Apply “pansy-vinca special,” a
high-nitrate, pansy-formula, 15-2-20
fertilizer, every 14 days through
March 15. It works great for begin-
ners and professionals alike. Just add
it to a watering can full of water and
water the bed thoroughly.
Potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate
and even magnesium nitrate can
provide good results in the winter,
How often you should fertilize
pansies depends on the plants’ vigor.
Consult the label for recommended
When you’re feeding over the top
of the plants, apply enough liquid not
only to wet the foliage but to saturate
the root zone 4 to 6 inches deep, too.
By March 15, soil temperatures
should let you begin using granular
fertilizers again. Using 200 parts per
million of 20-20-20 or a slow-release
granular fertilizer, as you would for
summer annuals, should work well
for pansies for the rest of the spring.
Check the pH, too. Take a soil
sample in early spring to test the soil
and 5.8. A pH above 5.8 can lead to
boron and iron deficiency and maybe
to more black root rot.
If the pH gets above 5.8, drench
the bed with 1 to 3 pounds per 100
gallons of either iron sulfate or alu-
minum sulfate. When you do this,
lightly rinse the pansies afterward to
prevent any foliage injury. Do this
every 10 days until the pH drops and
stays between 5.4 and 5.8.
Too much soil moisture reduces
oxygen and root growth. Try to keep
pansies’ soil slightly on the dry side
of moist to harden growth before
very cold weather.
Finally, keep the bed clean and
free of decomposing flowers and
Make frequent deadheading (re-
moving spent blossoms) and cleaning
a top priority. This prevents insect
and disease problems while making
the color display more striking. Bi-
weekly deadheading is essential for a
professional color display.
Trim lanky pansy stems from time
to time, too, to encourage branching,
compact growth and improved flow-
If you do these things consis-
tently, your pansy beds will rival
those you see at the entrances of
corporate buildings and botanical
(Paul Thomas and Gary Wade
are Cooperative Extension horticul- turists with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environ- mental Sciences.)



At November 19, 2009 at 7:02 AM , Blogger NellJean said...

When we went to a big box store in nearby Alabama yesterday, I was disappointed to find hundreds of flats of pansies, not a single viola. Violas perform much better in our climate. The sheer number of tiny blooms make up for the smaller bloom size.

I'll find them closer home, I'm sure.

Nell Jean, Secrets of a Seed Scatterer

At November 19, 2009 at 8:42 AM , Blogger barbara wise said...

Soooo glad you brought this up about pansies and violas. I tend to lump them together when discussing fall flowers when in actuality out of the 55,000 flowers we planted this fall half were pansies and half were violas. I had to request those specifically from our growers - they are harder to find but agree that they are the better choice for our area. I end up using the pansies mostly for my "55 mph beds" - those bigger flowers make for more impact in the fast drive-by areas. The violas I use in containers and walking/residential areas - even in the shadier areas they seem to keep blooming.
I appreciate you stopping by the blog!


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