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We have planted a bunch of pansies in our gardens and/or some containers.Now what? How do we keep them looking crisp and clean all winter long?Read on.Most gardeners plant pansies to keep some color in the yard in the fall and winter. These tough little plants can reward us with bright flowers even under ice. But they cannot tolerate much heat, so they are treated as an annual plant in this area.We plant them in the fall when the soils start to cool down and keep them through the winter. Most varieties will succumb to high temperatures by June of the following year. As long as the soil is cool, but not cold, the plants will be active. The ideal temperature range for the roots is between 45 and 70 degrees. Insert a thermometer about 2 or 3 inches into the soil to check this.Now the plants are in the ground, the roots will be active as long as they are at 45 degrees or above; below 45 degrees the roots will shut down and the plant will stop producing flowers.
While the pansies are flowering, it will help to periodically remove spent or faded flower heads. As the flowers fade, the plant will divert its energy into the production of seed pods. By removing the dead flower heads, a practice call dead-heading, you can trick the plant into maintaining a supply of energy into flower production. This is important for those who like to add bright colors to their salads in the fall or early winter. Yes, all parts of the pansy plant are edible and some say even tasty.The flavor of the pansy is said to be very green-tasting. They have a fresh, slightly spicy, lettuce-like flavor. They make a colorful addition to salads and the flavor will blend well with other leafy plants. Pansies also make a colorful garnish for many dishes. Their wide range of colors means they can be matched with almost anything. The petals can be used as an edible decoration on cakes and other desserts. To preserve their color, the petals can be “candied” by whisking an egg white with a few drops of water and brushing onto both sides for complete coverage. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and spread out on wax paper or parchment overnight to dry. They will last for months like this.To help keep the flowers coming, a complete fertilizer will help. Use a slow-release or organic fertilizer that has more phosphorous than nitrogen so it will benefit the flowers. One application in the fall and another in the spring will be sufficient. Liquid and water-soluble fertilizers will need to be applied regularly as they are used up fairly quickly by the plants. When soil temps are below 45 degrees, fertilizer will provide no benefit because the roots are not active.If your pansies are not blooming, you may need to make a simple adjustment or just be patient, depending on the reason for this. If the soils are too warm or too cold, the plants will not produce flowers, so just be patient. Hopefully, nobody is losing any pansies because of the above-average temperatures we have been experiencing.Also, pansies grow best in a rich, organic soil. If you do not have that condition met, maybe a little extra fertilizer will help. Soils that are too acidic can be a problem. Pansies like soils similar to our summer vegetable gardens, so planting an a new location may need some additional lime. Light can also be a issue. Pansies prefer partial to full sunlight, about six hours a day. Cooler, morning sun is better that hot, afternoon sun.Finally, keep the soil slightly moist, not wet, with regular applications of water. Water has been in issue with many plants this fall with our dry to drought-like conditions. Pansies need water a couple times a week when it is not raining.If freezing weather is in the forecast, don’t worry. The pansies will be OK. They may get a little frost bitten from time-to-time, but they can handle that. Just cut away any browned-out foliage to make room for the green. In the spring it will become a matter of when to remove the pansies to make room for the summer annuals. Remove them in early May when there are many choices for summer bedding plants or wait until they wilt from the heat and replace them then? I’ll leave that decision to the reader.Enjoy your garden.For questions or to suggest a topic for this column, email [email protected]
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