Name: pansy, violet, heartsease, Viola x wittrockiana, Viola tricolor, Viola cornuta.
Foliage: long, mid-green elliptical leaves with scalloped or bluntly toothed margins.
Climate: prefer temperate climates with a mild growing environment.
Soil: will grow in most well-drained garden soils.
Position: most pansies will grow in full sun, partial shade or shade.
Flowering: numerous colourful small to large flowers up to 10cm across, in rich and bright hues, appearing from late winter until late spring.
Feeding: use a controlled-release fertiliser when initially planting. Containerised pansies may require a water-soluble fertiliser every month.
Watering: require cool conditions and moist soil. Ensure you water every week, and more frequently during warm spring weather.
Pansies are low-growing, compact perennial flowering plants that are usually grown as annuals, covering themselves in bright, colourful flat-faced flowers, some with dark blotches or markings. The broad spectrum of colours is unmatched, from pure white to almost black; only green is missing. Pansies grow and flower from late winter through to the end of spring and early summer in cooler climates. These winter sun-loving groundcovers grow between 10 and 25cm high.
Originating in most of the temperate regions of the world, pansies are hybrids developed from crossing Viola tricolor, V. cornuta and V. corsica with other predominately European species. Selected breeding has produced a myriad of different coloured and patterned varieties, producing flowers ranging from small to giant flowers with a span of 10cm across, in the Carrington series.
Pansies are best grown in a sunny spot during the cooler months, but prefer light shade in warm-temperate conditions during spring and early summer in areas such as Perth and Sydney. Hot early summer temperatures will cause flowering to cease unless some shade and adequate watering is available.
Pansies are adaptable annuals that are easily grown in containers and hanging baskets, mass planted in borders, as fillers in between plants, or for planting with spring flowering bulbs. Most pansies will survive light frosts or are fully frost hardy, with some hybrids even popping up through shallow blankets of snow.
The pansy will grow in most well-drained fertile garden soils. In the garden, prepare the soil by incorporating aged compost or well-rotted cow manure before planting to improve overall growth, drainage and moisture retention. Acidic soils with a pH of around 5.5–6.5 are preferred – this can be easily monitored with a pH kit. For alkaline soils, add some sphagnum moss peat and granulated sulphur at planting to acidify the soil and lower the pH.
In containers, hanging baskets or window boxes, use a premium standard potting mix and keep well-watered throughout spring and early summer.
At planting, apply a controlled-release organic fertiliser around the plant roots. Avoid placing concentrated granular fertilisers in direct contact with the pansy’s roots, as this may burn them. Liquid feed monthly from spring onwards with a fertiliser high in potash for flowering plants.
A pansy is generally a compact plant, so pruning is not usually required apart from dead heading any spent flowers. Plants in the ground over winter can be lightly trimmed if required.
Pansies are mostly trouble free, but can occasionally be attacked by aphids; these may be easily controlled with a safe insecticide. Slugs and snails usually cause the most damage to pansies, munching on the young plants or seedlings. Organic control methods include beer traps, handpicking by torchlight, and barriers of sawdust, crushed eggshells, wood ash or wood shavings. Adhesive copper tape works well in both wet and dry conditions, so is perfect for placing under the rim of pansies planted in containers. Iron chelate-based snail pellets are the safest to use in the home garden.
Perennial species of pansies are usually grown from seed and treated as annuals or biennials.
Alternatively, in colder areas, seed may be sown in late winter/early spring and planted out later, during spring.
Marigold: golden yellow and orange-flowered bedding or edging plant that provides sunny shades of colour in the garden.
Lobelia: trailing annual suitable for bedding, hanging baskets and edging in shades of blue, pink, red and white.
Tulip: spring flowering bulb with large, showy, bright and colourful goblet-shaped flowers on long stems, perfect for underplanting with pansies.
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