Pansies (Viola tricolor var. hortensis) are a garden staple plant with a happy face. The distinct markings of the blooms have garnered pansies many different names, including monkey face and three-faces-in-a-hood.
Whatever you choose to call them pansies are easy to plant, grow and maintain for most of the year. Pansies can be grown year-round in climates that have mild winters. Use these tips and start growing pansies in your landscape this year.
Start Pansies from Seeds
Seeds can be sown directly into the outdoor soil in spring after all danger of frost has passed. In any climate, seeds can be started indoors in small pots of potting soil in late winter and the plants will be ready for transplanting when the soil warms up in spring.
Place seeds 2 inches apart on top of the soil in containers or 6 inches apart when planting seeds outdoors. Barely cover with 1/8 inch of soil. Seeds must be kept in the dark during germination, but covering them too deeply with potting soil will prevent sprouting. Moisten the soil and keep it moist throughout the germination process. Pansies germinate slowly, so it will take up to 2 weeks for germination.
Select a planting site that is semi-shady so the plants will have a cooling reprieve from the afternoon sun. Pansies prefer moist, cool, well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.
Because pansies grow low to the ground, reaching between 6-9 inches (15 – 22 cm) when mature, they make excellent ground covers and border plants. Bloom time is from early spring until late fall (year-round in warm winter zones) so these flowers will keep the landscape color going.
Pansies work hard and will need to be fed and watered frequently. Feed plants with a granulated, balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) four times per year- spring, summer, fall and winter and water with a water-soluble fertilizer mixed at one-half the recommended rate every two weeks during the growing season.
If growing organically, mix plenty of organic matter into the soil before planting, then add a 2- inch (5 cm) layer of compost around the plant after they reach 4 inches in height. Add more compost in late summer.
Deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms.
Pansies are Edible
Pansies can be eaten if grown organically. Both the flowers and stems are edible and they are a good source of vitamins A and C.
Pansies are often used to add flavor to honey, syrup, and custard. Their flavor is mildly tangy and makes a nice addition to fresh salads.