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Putting more color in your landscape

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After the winter we’ve had, many gardeners thought we’d probably never see plant life again. But things are actually starting to grow. A few brave plants willing to take a risk are rearing their heads. One of the first plants daring enough to show a little color this time of year is the pansy. As soon as the snow melts, it starts blossoming. Consider this information.

A relative of the viola, pansies have been around since about 400 BC. In the early 1800s they were bred in England and later in other parts of Europe where they developed the larger blooms and variety of colors we enjoy today. Pansies are still commonly bred and hybridized, so new varieties are introduced every few years.

Pansies are biennials. They can be planted in the fall, survive the winter and then bloom the next spring. Even though fall is a good time for planting, they can also be planted this time of year, as soon as the soil is workable. Most gardeners use pansies as annuals. They enjoy their color for a few months in the spring, then pull them out when the weather warms enough for summer annuals. Pansies planted in the spring look good until around mid-June and continue to show some amount of color throughout the summer.

Pansies grow best in the cooler spring and fall weather. They prefer nighttime temperatures below 60 F. When the temperatures start getting too warm, the plants tend to get leggy, and flower production declines. Because they enjoy cooler temperatures, they are too often planted in full shade. This reduces blossom production. To keep them blooming, plant in full sun to part shade, then replace them with other annuals once hotter temperatures arrive.

Pansies come in a variety of colors and sizes and have one of the widest ranges of color of any flower. Pansies come in white, dark purple, orange, pink, blue and yellow, as well as many combinations of these colors.

The colorful pattern on a pansy bloom is very unique. Some are solid. Others are a solid color with black or dark “pencil” lines radiating from the center of the flower. The third type of blossom has two or three colors, with the darker color forming a “face” in the center of the flower. This pattern is one of the reasons these flowers are so popular.

Pansies typically are divided into categories according to the size of their blossoms. The large types have a flower ranging from 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Some of these include Accord, Majestic Giant and Swiss Giant.

When planting pansies, space them about 6 to 10 inches apart, depending on the size of the blossom. Avoid planting them too deep, and apply water soluble fertilizer to boost bloom production and help them get established quickly.

Like many flowers, pansies do best in soil that contains organic matter and drains well. In the fall, they can be placed in annual beds after compost has been worked into the area. In the spring, plant them around bulbs and wherever you would like instant color. Do not be concerned if you planted pansies last fall and they didn’t make it through the winter. The plants can be replaced this spring.

One thing many people do not realize is that pansies have a wonderful aroma. Gather a small bouquet and place them in a room to bring the smell of spring indoors.

Posted on 26 Mar 2004

Jerry Goodspeed
County Director, Horticulture Agent, Weber County

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