MARSHA DONALDSON: Pansies are delightful, hardy flowers for wintertime – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

marsha-donaldson:-pansies-are-delightful,-hardy-flowers-for-wintertime-–-northeast-mississippi-daily-journal

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Pansies are a delightful flower to enjoy during the winter months, when so few other plants are blooming. Unlike most annuals, pansies thrive in cooler temperatures. Even though typically grown as an annual, pansies are a short season perennial. In USDA zones 7 and warmer, pansies are grown throughout the winter, with certain varieties that can withstand light snow.With their large multicolored flat flowers, pansies have heart-shaped overlapping petals that often have central markings that look like a face. Pansies come in a variety of bright colors; some are solid, while others are a combination of colors. This year I discovered a new variety — a solid black pansy.Pansies are ideal for edging because they are compact and grow low to the ground. They are a terrific addition to fall and spring containers, as well as use for borders and rock walls. In the late spring, when temperatures rise, pansies will decline, and the plants removed to allow space for other plants that bloom in late spring and summer.At maturity, pansies grow to be 4 to 8 inches tall, and 4 to 6 inches wide. They do well in full sun to part shade, although partial shade is preferable. They are hardy in USDA growing zones 7 to 11 and perform best in soil that is slightly acidic (pH of 6.0 to 6.2). Pansies are not fussy plants, but do best in loose, rich soil, and grow especially well in soil that has been amended with a good organic compost. Pansies prefer moist, but not soggy, soil that drains well. If planted in containers, be sure the containers have drainage holes.When buying pansies, choose plants that are short and stocky, and have plenty of buds. Plants that are full of open blooms will be stressed and will not thrive because so much energy was put into producing blooms prior to planting in a permanent location. Avoid purchasing plants that are leggy or with yellowed leaves, as these are signs of a stressed plant as well.While in bloom, deadheading (removing the spent blooms) will encourage more blooms. And while most people remove pansies from the garden during the hottest months, it is possible to leave them in the garden to rest and rebloom in the fall. If you decide to try this, cut the plants back before they set seed to encourage new growth.

MARSHA DONALDSON, a Master Gardener, is a trained volunteer with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. For gardening questions, call the Help Center at (662) 620-8280 in Lee County or (866) 920-4678 outside Lee County and leave a message.
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