Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Plant hardy pansies now to brighten up your yard

Plant hardy pansies now to brighten up your yard

Posted: Sunday, April 1, 2012 12:00 am

Had enough fun in the yard doing clean-up work? Want to get out there and plant some color right now? Pansies are the perfect choice.

Pansies are a "cool crop", meaning that they thrive in cool weather. They can even tolerate a light frost and cold night temperatures, but be prepared to cover them if the temperature falls below 20-25 degrees.

If there is a sudden cold snap and they freeze, there is a chance they will not die. Many hybrid pansies have a high tolerance for cold and can be frozen solid and the plants still will not die. However, you may notice a purple cast to the leaves, which is a sign of stress and can be a result of the cold temperatures.

Pansies may be tough, but remember that they are a cool crop. They prefer a partially shaded area with morning sun and moist, well-draining soil. Blossoming will slow down in the heat of summer, but if you keep them well-watered during the dry hot weather and keep their roots cool and moist, they may bloom again once temperatures start falling in late summer.

If pansies fail to thrive, it is usually because either nature or the gardener isn't providing enough water. Water the soil (not the leaves) deeply. Mulching around the pansies with two inches of organic material, such as compost or bark, will help conserve moisture and reduce weed growth. Work a granular or time-release fertilizer into the soil as you are planting to provide that extra energy for blossoming.

Pansies also love to be groomed. The more spent flowers you remove, the more flowers you will have.

Pansies are versatile in the yard, working well in shady patio planters, window boxes, borders and beds. They have a light fragrance that is more apparent in the early morning and dusk when the air temperature cools. Yellow and blue varieties seem to be more fragrant than other varieties.

Pansies also come in shades of red, orange, white, pink, purple and black with three basic color patterns -- a solid clear color, a single color with black lines radiating from its center and those with a dark center blotch known as a "face." With all these choices and the fact that they can be planted early in the season, it's easy to see why pansies are a perpetual favorite of most gardeners.


Jim Gainan is President of Gainan's Flowers and Garden Center in Billings, MT.