Published on 08/19/10

Plant pansies like the pros

By Stephanie Schupska

With their colorful faces and cold-weather tolerance, pansies are an easy landscape edition – unless they are installed incorrectly.

A University of Georgia plant expert who specializes in helping Georgia’s landscapers says planting like the pros is the best way to have beautiful flowers and less heartaches and backaches.

“If you’re going to spend your money on flowers, you might as well do it right,” said Gary Wade, a UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist.

During his 26 years helping make Georgia more beautiful through plants, he’s come up with a few pansy-planting pointers.

Top tips

• Don’t plant more than you can maintain. “Annual flowers are high maintenance and require a lot of care to keep them looking their best,” Wade said.

• Plant at the right time of year. Georgia has three pansy zones. In cooler north Georgia, install them between Sept. 15 and Oct. 1. In middle Georgia, plant between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15. In warm south Georgia, wait until Oct. 15 to Nov. 1 to plant.

“If you plant too early, the warm weather can make pansies stretch and become leggy,” Wade said.

Landscapers usually purchase flowers grown in 4-inch containers. These plants cost more than those grown in smaller six-packs. But because they have larger root systems, they will establish more quickly, produce more flowers earlier and be ready to weather the winter.

Lots of color, variety of faces

Pansies come in a large variety of colors. Wade suggests planting white, gold and yellow pansies with purple. Or, he says, bright yellow and orange blooms go well with darker maroon and blue. The combinations are almost limitless.

“There are some plants out now that are pretty much UGA red,” Wade said.

Pansy blooms can be solid colors, or they can have shades of pastel colors. Traditional pansies have dark centers surrounded by a lighter color (known as faced pansies). For smaller flowers, plant violas.

Planting perfection

After choosing the perfect colors in larger pots and buying at the right time of year, planting is the next step toward pansy perfection, Wade says.

1. Choose a spot that gets full sun and drains well to prevent disease problems.

2. Prepare the bed. Commercial landscapers plant pansies on beds raised 6 to 12 inches above the surrounding soil. This assures good drainage and improves visibility. When re-planting old beds, remove old mulch to avoid plant diseases. Top new beds with 4 inches of organic matter (such as compost), and work it into the bed about a foot deep.

3. Broadcast fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, at a rate of 2 cups per 100 square feet over the bed. Rake it into the top 4 inches of soil.

4. Plan your bed. Lay out the plants in their pots on the bed, spacing them 8 to 10 inches apart. Rearrange the pots until you get the bed looking just right.

5. Plant the pansy bed from the inside out so you won’t crush any plants. Carefully remove each plant from its container, dig a hole and plant it.

6. Mulch plants with 2 to 3 inches of pine straw, pine bark mini-nuggets or shredded hardwood mulch. Carefully place the mulch around the plants, and brush excess mulch off the leaves, Wade said.

7. Water the plants with a hand-held hose or watering can. Once the bed is thoroughly wet, apply liquid fertilizer, such as 20-20-20 or 15-30-15, which is absorbed by both foliage and roots.

8. Keep the bed moist, but not too wet. Water between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., Wade said. “Don’t water in late evening because the water won’t evaporate and will encourage diseases.” Apply liquid fertilizer once a month throughout the winter.

9. Groom pansy beds once a week by removing spent blossoms and seedpods. Seedpods zap the plant’s energy. Old blossoms may harbor diseases.

For more information, visit the UGA Cooperative Extension publication at

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.

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