Pansies for the garden

Here is a small hardy plant that is easy to grow and that offers a great many different uses.

Pansy has one major advantage: it blooms in winter!

Belonging to the Violaceae family, it can be mistaken in the wild to be a violet, its close cousin. To know who’s who, a trick: violets have two flower petals facing up and three facing down; pansies have four petals going up and one going down. The wild pansy (Viola tricolor) was bred and cultivated into the many different horticultural varieties. There are now plants with tiny round flowers that are no larger than 1 inch (2 cm) across, and large ones over 2½ inches (6 cm) in size. But size isn’t everything… Pansy also comes in shades of blue, yellow, red, brown… with or without colored spots, too. All in all an almost infinite variety of plants that can potentially all grow in your garden, small or big.

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In pots, in beds, hanging arrangements…

Sow these small biennials in spring or summer depending on when you want the blooming to occur. They will then self-sow, but you can  divide the plants of certain varieties if you wish to propagate them, and it is also possible to prepare cuttings from small sprigs.

As your collection grows, start playing with the hues and sizes and pair them with other flowers. For example, they will be marvelous together with your tulips, as a background filler. Since they can resist freezing down to 21°F (6° C) you can set them in hanging pots together with ivy or in garden boxes with cyclamens and veronicas to embellish your garden during the cold season. If you’ve got any plants left, plant them along the side of your vegetable patch, in part sun.

Minimal care

Once your plants are settled in, simply savor the bloom that will come and come again without the slightest bit of work. To extend the blooming in time, keep the soil moist and remove wilted flowers. Note that a specific strand of downy mildew can attack pansy, it might settle on the leaves. If you notice it early enough, remove the infected specimens to avoid spreading and having to treat it. These practices will help your plants stay in place for years.

M.-C. H.