Pansies begin showing up in the garden centers in fall along with cool weather favorites like mums, ornamental kale and ornamental cabbages. Pansies may not be the biggest plants on the fall scene, but the bright and cheerful flowers more than make up for their size. Since pansies can’t take hot weather, the cool fall weather is the perfect planting time. They survive all the way through the cold days of winter with ease and often with lots of blooms.
Pansies have the double duty of making fall bulb planting more appealing for impatient gardeners like me. Digging holes for fall bulbs will be so worth it come spring, but there’s nothing to see for the hard work you’re doing now. But planting pansies at the same time you’re putting bulbs the ground gives instant gratification and color to the fall garden. Just like bulbs, give pansies a rich well-drained soil.
Pansies will continue to bloom intermittently all fall and into the winter in my Zone 6B garden. During an especially hard freeze, the plants will sometimes go dormant or the leaves will wither. But pansies quickly bounce back and bloom again throughout the warmer days of winter.
Early spring is the real reward for planting pansies in the cool fall weather. They get much bigger and bloom twice as much in spring. The roots have been getting established all through the fall and winter months which give them a head start at getting established. I’ve tried waiting and planting pansies in the spring with disappointing results. Pansies just don’t have ample time to get established before it becomes too hot for them to thrive in southern climates.
The size of the flowers can vary somewhat with different varieties of pansies but none are as small as their cousin the viola. The pansies with the dark centers have the biggest and showiest flowers. Occasionally a new pansy flower color will pop up on the market. One of my favorites is the soft orange that’s not as plentiful in the garden centers. But the color is worth trying to find because it looks so great with pumpkins and other fall decor.
Besides orange, the sky is almost the limit with color choices. Pansies are available in a variety of solid colors, bicolor and tricolor combinations. These cool weather favorites come in solids and combinations of colors. For starters, there is yellow and brown, solid lemon yellow, solid white, white and purple with brown, pastel orange, reddish pink, periwinkle blue and burgundy. Some have dark centers on the petals that are often said to resemble happy faces.
The newest pansy on the market is called Icicle and is supposedly more cold tolerant and will bloom all winter. The Icicle pansy was developed in Canada, so maybe it will really out perform the other cool weather pansies. This would be a good experiment for the colder northern gardeners because the regular pansies I’ve been buying for years already do this. Fernlea Flowers in Ontario, Canada guarantees the Icicle pansy will bloom again in the spring after harsh northern winters. Register at the website iciclepansy.com to find locations that have Icicle pansies available near you. Since a money-back guarantee is offered, there’s really nothing to lose.