Pansies Or Viola: What You Need To Know

Pansies that have faces for sale at garden center 

Faceless pansies for sale at garden center

Leggy and poor quality pansies for sale

Violas ready to plant; note smaller flower size

Overwintered pot of violas photographed spring 2019

Cooler weather and rain tell me it’s time to plant pansies and violas. First, when you select the transplants, there is ultimately not much difference in the 6 pack plants or the 4-inch pot in how they overwinter and flower next spring.The real key in buying them is to not purchase leggy plants and if possible not in full bloom. I generally classify pansies with faces and those without faces. I think the general rule is that the faceless ones are more cold hardy, but some experts beg to differ. But one thing we all agree on is that violas are more cold hardy, and if we have a severe winter they will withstand the cold weather better. And while the blooms are smaller; they are profuse bloomers.
Planting both pansies and violas are done the same way. Here are a few tips to help you succeed. First and foremost plant in good soil, and if your plants are root bound loosen the roots with your hand to encourage them to take root in the planted soil. Root bound plants are almost always the case this time of the year. Second, try not to buy plants that do not contain some flower buds, so you will have flowers all fall. Third, when you finish planting water well (I always do it three times). Hold off on mulch for now, so the plants can adapt to the cooler conditions and keep old blooms pinched off. Mulch right before a heavy freeze is the best time to apply it. And finally, fertilize every two weeks with liquid feed until we have consistently cold nights below 40 degrees. Remember your plant’s roots are growing hopefully all winter, so water after hard freezes and fertilize at least monthly during December,February and March to encourage spring bloom. Once the soil warms fertilize every two weeks with liquid feed to keep them blooming.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

2 thoughts on “Pansies Or Viola: What You Need To Know

  1. Hi John, Really enjoyed the “Border” program yesterday at BBG. Mollie Hendry was excellent. And really appreciated your blog above. I’ve just planted 4 doz pansies and violas. Also helpful were your comments on root bound azaleas since i have just planted three large Geo Tabers that were terribly root bound. Plan to dig them up, shake out the roots…or beat the hell out of them as you once had to do…and replant. Also plan to become a volunteer to help out at Japanese Garden and get to know you and Molly better. Really wonderful presentation and border tour. I had no idea about all that is involved in garden design and plant selection since my modest little beds get filled from the reduced price rack at Lowes. Thanks so much. paul davis

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