Fall Planting of Pansies

The spring garden may not be completely planted yet and here I am discussing fall planting. Pansies are popular bedding plants in the garden. In fact they ranked fourth in total bedding plant sales in 1994. They are available in almost every flower color imaginable, from vivid yellows and blues to delicate pastel colors and mixes. Flowers can be solid, bicolored, or possess those famous ÒfacesÓ. Flower size varies from over two inches across to the one-half inch blooms found in the viola mini pansies. Breeders have been trying to develop cultivars that possess better heat tolerance. They are also developing cultivars that will overwinter and bloom well during a second season. It is this feature that makes pansies all the more interesting.

Botanically, pansies are biennials or perennials, but are grown as annuals by most gardeners. They can reseed themselves and, if protected overwinter, can survive to bloom a second year. An overwintering evaluation being conducted at the University of Minnesota's North Central Experiment Station in Grand Rapids has yielded some useful results. Pansy seed is started in late June for transplanting in mid to late August (pansies need seven to nine weeks from seeding to transplanting). This allows for good plant establishment before winter. In northern Minnesota, a dependable snow cover is usually possible. However, here in Iowa where snow cover in not guaranteed, a straw mulch applied in November should help ensure winter survival.

After three years of spring evaluation, Minnesota researchers have found that by id May most plants are showing good bloom, and by late-May they look excellent and are blooming profusely (in Iowa the pansies should be flowering by late April to early May). Most continue blooming profusely into July. When comparing spring and fall plantings, both made the previous year, the fall plantings generally have been more uniform in growth and bloom, have had slightly smaller plant sizes, and have had slightly larger flowers than their spring planted companions.

As fall planting becomes more popular, pansies may become just as common as blooming mums in late summer and early fall. Currently, however, you will probably need to start your own seeds. Transplant outdoors when the plants are three to four inches tall. Young plants will suffer several hard freezes in late September and October, but are able to tolerate these conditions. Select a partial shade to full sun location for planting. Ideally situate them in an area that

The following suggested varieties have proven themselves in the Minnesota trials (flower size - Large (L), Medium (M), Small (S)):

Blue Yellow
Accord Clear Blue (L) Accord Yellow Blotch (L)
Joker Light Blue (M) Atlas Yellow (L)
Maxim Marina (S) Crystal Bowl Yellow (S)
Regal Deep Blue Blotch (L) Regal Yellow Blotch (L)
Springtime Pacific Blue (M) Universal Yellow Blotch (S)
Swiss Giant Deep Blue Blotch (L)
Universal True Blue (S)
Padparadja (S) Imperial Beacon (M)
Roc Orange (M) Ultima Beacon Bicolor (L)
PurpleRose or Pink
Faces Purple (M) Imperial Frosty Pink (M)
Princess Purple With Eye (S) Maxim Rose (S)
Universal Purple (S) Ultima Pink (L)
Accord White Blotch (L)
Crown White (M)
Melody White (M)
Roc White (M)
Springtime Pure White (M)

This article originally appeared in the June 14, 1996 issue, pp. 99-100.


Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on June 14, 1996. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.