Pansies and violas or Johnny jump-ups are staples of the late fall and early spring gardens. These plants, both from the genus Viola, prefer the cooler weather of these seasons and struggle in the heat of summer. For this reason these plants are often treated as an annual in environments with hot summers though technically they are a perennial.
Pansies are a wonderful companion plant for spring-blooming bulbs in borders. They also make colorful massed plantings and add a whimsical touch to planter boxes.
Plants can be grown from seed but are more often purchased as transplants from the garden center. To be sure they are well established before the weather turns cold, plant them out four to six weeks before the first frost of autumn.
When planting pansies or Johnny jump-ups, choose a site that receives at least six hours of sun during the day. Pansies do best in loamy soil that is rich in organic matter, but they also grow in the heavier clay soils found in Colorado. Increasing the organic matter in clay soils improves drainage and aeration for the plants. In sandy soils, organic matter improves water and nutrient retention. Compost is a good, sustainable source of organic matter. If possible, incorporate two to three inches of organic matter into the top six to eight inches of soil.
Water plants thoroughly after transplanting and mulch lightly with leaf mold or bark mulch. Pansies thrive when given a complete fertilizer such as a 5-10-5 analysis about a week after being planted in the fall and again in early spring. Fertilizers with high levels of nitrogen (the first number in the analysis sequence) result in excess tender foliage that will not be as cold hardy. Organic fertilizers are a popular option for gardeners as it releases nutrients slowly over several months.
For “Buying & hardening transplants” refer to message number 1802.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).
- Perennial gardening
- Choosing A Soil Amendment
- Vegetable garden: Soil Management and Fertilization
- Xeriscaping: garden Flowers