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Growing Pansies: How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Pansy Flowers: The Old Farmer's Almanac

Pansies

yellow and purple pansies in terracotta pots
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Pixabay
Botanical Name
Viola x wittrockiana
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Hardiness Zone
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How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Pansy Flowers

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Pansies are the cheerful flowers with upturned “faces.” They love cool weather and are popular to grow in spring and fall. They’re also edible, adding color to salads, drinks, and cakes. Here’s how to plant pansies and keep them growing and blooming for bright, happy gardens and containers.

About Pansies

Pansies are a type of Viola (Viola × wittrockiana) with large heart-shaped, overlapping petals and one of the widest ranges of bright, pretty colors and patterns.

Suitable for containers and borders and as ground cover, they are a go-to flower for reliable color almost year-round in some places. Pansies look pretty in a monochrome scheme or mixed colors; they also look pretty when planted with other cool-season flowers such as primroses, trailing lobelia, and sweet alyssum.

Are Pansies Annual or Perennial Flowers? 

Most gardeners treat pansies (and all violas) as an annual, but they’re actually hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8. They tend to get too leggy in the heat of summer. There hasn’t been much success in producing heat-tolerant pansies that can adequately survive hot weather.

Pansies are surprisingly hearty in cold weather, though. They’ll survive a frost, bouncing back from even single-digit temperatures. If the blooms wither in the cold, the plants will often stay alive to bloom again, which makes them a great flowering plant for fall and early winter color.

Pansies in a field

Planting

Plant in moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil. See our articles on soil amendments and preparing soil for planting for more information. 

Pansies like full or partial sun but need cooler temperatures to thrive. The ideal planting site will get morning sun but avoid the late afternoon heat. 

Space the plants about 7 to 12 inches apart. They will spread about 9 to 12 inches and grow about 6 to 9 inches tall.

When to Plant Pansies

  • Pansies can be planted in the early spring or in the fall. 
  • Pansies can be finicky to start from seed; buying established plants from a local nursery is a lot easier. Plus, you’ll get blooms a lot sooner.
  • But if you want to start from seed, start pansy seeds indoors in late winter, 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost, for early spring and summer flowering. Or, start seeds in late summer for fall and winter flowering. Pansy seeds may be slow to germinate (typically emerging in anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on soil temperature).
  • Set pansy plants in the ground when it becomes workable in the spring. They grow best when soil temperatures are between 45°F and 65°F (7°C and 18°C).
  • Pansies can tolerate a light frost just after planting, but try to hold off on putting them in the ground if temperatures are still regularly reaching well below freezing.

Growing Pansies in Pots

  • Pansies are great for containers. Just use standard potting soil designed for containers.
  • Plant in portable containers (12 inches or less in diameter) so the plants can be moved to a cooler area when the sun starts to get stronger. Early in the spring season or in the fall, a south-facing patio might be the perfect spot. During the summer, move pansies to the east side of your home for morning sun and afternoon shade.
Growing

How to Care for Pansies

  • Remember to water pansies regularly. One of the most common reasons pansies fail is that they are not watered enough, so if they are not doing well, try watering them more.
  • You can use a general, all-purpose fertilizer around your pansies to help them grow. Be wary of using a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, as this can result in more foliage than flowers.
  • Remove faded/dead flowers to encourage the plants to produce more blooms and prolong the blooming season. You can either pinch off the flower bud or cut it off just below the faded bud.
pansies purple and yellow pansy flowers
Beautiful pansies are a wonderful addition to any garden!

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Wit and Wisdom
  • Pansies symbolize “thinking” or “thoughts.” The word “pansy” itself comes from French pensée, meaning “thought.” Find out more flower meanings here.
Pests/Diseases
Cooking Notes
  • Pansies are one of several edible garden flowers! They have a mild minty flavor and make for a lovely edible flourish on a salad or dessert.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprise that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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