11 Tips To Keep Your Pansies Blooming All Summer Long
Looking to maximize the length of time your pansies bloom this season? Pansies are a welcome addition to any garden, but their blooms may fade depending on the situation. In this article, certified master gardener Laura Elsner walks through her top tips to keep your pansies blooming for as long as possible this season!
Full disclosure. I love pansies. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. I loved their big sweet but sassy faces telling Alice she’s a weed in Alice in Wonderland. Over the years I’ve grown many pansies. Probably around 10,000 of them (no exaggeration, probably more actually!).
These flowers have such big broad sunny faces and come in so many colors and patterns, they quickly became my favorite garden flower. I love that they can be planted in the very early spring. A welcome blast of color after a long winter.
I did learn quickly however that they are not a ‘no maintenance’ flower. They do require a little bit of care and effort to stay blooming and looking great all throughout the season. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tips to keep your pansies looking great and blooming big all season long.
Keep Them Cool
Pansies are a cool season flower. I live in zone 3, and this is why I especially love this flower. They can take frost and snow. For me this means they can be planted before most other perennials have even emerged from the soil. The first flowers for the bees.
Then I traveled and noticed them planted in the winter months in Arizona and Nevada. This makes sense as they would fry in the desert heat.
So it is important to know the season for pansies in your area. Plant them in your cool season. They fade when the temperatures rise. A good general guideline is to plant them when you would plant lettuce in your area.
If you live in a cold climate (like me), they are wonderful because they can take snow and temperatures as low as 20F. If there is a blast of snow after you’ve planted them, leave them covered in the snow. This insulates them from the blast of cold that usually follows a snowstorm.
Mass Plant for More Impact
When I say I’ve planted 10,000 pansies it does not mean I’ve been in 1,000 gardens. I will plant at least 54 pansies in a garden. That’s 3 flats of 4 inch plant pots. That’s a lot of pansies, you can definitely do less.
But the key is to group them. Do not plant one pansy here and one over there. They get lost in a garden, you won’t even notice their blooms amongst the other plants in the garden.
To create a visual impact, plant them in groups of 5, 7, or 9s in a bed. Odd numbers are always more appealing since our brain does not group them. 4 will appear as 2 groups of 2 in our heads, but 5 just looks like a bunch, which is more visually appealing (the mind is a mysterious thing).
Or, another option for impact is to plant them as a long border at the edge of a garden bed to create a real crisp line of flowers. This will give you more bang for your buck and keep them relevant in your garden all summer long.
Crack The Roots
Pansies often come in containers and stay in those containers way too long. The roots are coming out the drainage holes.
Ideally, try not to buy pansies that are rootbound, with their roots coming out the bottom of their containers. But, I sometimes buy them when they are on sale (I love a deal!). This means they’ve been in their little containers for awhile and their roots are getting a little snug in their pots.
Make sure you crack the roots before you plant. Be careful pulling a root bound pansy from its pot. Grab the root ball of the plant and not the stem. You will rip the plant out without the roots if you tug the plant. Reach your fingers in and pinch the root ball and wiggle it out. Then crack the roots in half and in half again. Or you can even tear the bottom of the root ball right off if it has become a thick matting.
The pansy roots will continue to wrap around itself and strangle itself if you do not do this. It will result in struggling plants that don’t reach their growth potential.
Maintain Soil Health
While they are hardy little dudes that will grow in almost any condition, if you want to maximize their growth and blooms, soil health is important. These flowers like the same beautifully fluffy light garden soil that most plants in a perennial garden do. So if you find everything in your garden struggles, look at your soil quality.
Soil should be dark and have a beautiful earthy smell. If it is light and dusty looking, amend with compost, aged manure, or worm castings to add nutrients to the soil.
Soil should crumble apart in your hands when you squeeze it. If it stays in a ball it is clay soil. Amend with peat or coir to make it lighter.
Good soil is the key to great gardens, get your soil healthy and your whole garden, including pansies, will thrive.
Water, Water, Water… Then Stop
This lesson I learned on my own. I noticed for some reason the pansies in my own garden always look big and beautiful late into the season. Whereas some in other gardens I manage would fizzle out. I could not figure it out since I fuss over other people’s gardens, but never my own.
Those that were fizzling out were turning yellow at the stem and just dissolving to nothing. Or they would get stringy and have powdery mildew. Whereas mine had glossy leaves and lots of big strong blooms.
Finally it dawned on me, I don’t water mine. The client’s were being watered on an irrigation timer. They were constantly having water sprayed on them. Once we adjusted the watering their pansies thrived like mine.
But… this does not mean they are water wise. In the beginning I water my pansies. Everyday I’d come home from work to find them lying flat on the ground. Limp and dead. But I’d give them a good soak with the hose and like magic they would be back up and alive.
This process would go on for about a month. Then one day I would come home and they weren’t limp so I didn’t even think about watering them. They only received the weekly drip hose that I turned on for my entire garden after that.
So, water water water to establish them, then lay off the water. They will tell you when they need a drink. Don’t over water them or keep them too wet and soggy. I will say, try not to wait until they are flat on the ground to give them a drink like I did, this is hard on them too. Just water them daily or every second day (weather pending) for a few weeks until their roots get established.
Sun, and More Sun
I’ve planted pansies in all conditions. They thrive the best in part sun. I think ideally they would love a garden bed that has a deciduous tree. Full sun in the early spring, and then dappled shade in the heat of the summer.
In too much sun the edges of the leaves and flowers will get crispy and/bleached out.
In too much shade, they will quit blooming and will get really spindly and leggy.
Fertilize When Necessary
Pansies like fertilizer. Feed them for more blooms. I use the same fertilizer I use to feed my annuals in pots. Or I will use the granular shake and feed if they are scattered in the beds or as a border.
Never fertilize dry plants. It will burn them. Water first, then fertilize. If using the granular fertilizer, water it in again after applying.
Deadhead Spent Blooms
Okay, this is the big one. Pansies do take a bit of work to keep them blooming.
Plants have one mission. Grow, flower, make seed. Once they make that seed they think “ok my job is done” and quit making flowers. We don’t want them to think that. The more we pinch their flower seed pods, the more they need to produce new flowers.
Deadhead by using a pair of small scissors, or I just use my thumb nail. Snip off the stem to the base of the foliage. Don’t just pull off the flower and leave the little stalk. The more you pinch fading flowers and seed pods, the more new flowers will appear.
Deadheading is a garden task I try and keep up on, just walk by and take off spent blooms. The more you do it the more flowers you’ll get. This applies to almost all flowers, geraniums, peonies, petunias etc. Cut off spent blossoms to make new ones.
Be Aggressive With Pruning
You can’t over deadhead a pansy. I only maintain client gardens once a week, some once every two weeks. When I’m in their garden I will remove any pansy blossom that is just starting to fade don’t be shy, pinch them off.
If they are looking long and spindly, pinch off or cut the leggy runners to keep them compact and bushy.
If they are all long and leafy and crazy in a pot (but on sale), cut the top ⅓ of the pansy off. Don’t be shy, be aggressive. They will grow back, bushier and with more blooms.
Let It Seed
Ok, now that I’ve just told you to not let them go to seed, I’m now telling you to let them seed. This one is entirely optional. But, if you want pansies next year they can self seed.
You won’t get the big wide faced flowers that you planted, they usually self seed as little purple violas (we call them Johnny jumps ups). So if you want a wildflower garden of purple violas, quit deadheading in the early fall and let the pansies pop their seeds out.
Move Them Around
I plant spring planters in the very early spring. Usually, I use forced tulips, muscari, daffodils, and of course pansies. I love it because I can get them growing in pots before the ground has thawed. They grow big and beautiful in the warm spring pots.
Then once it is time for summer pots to be planted I take them out of the pots and plant them into the ground. They are big and beautiful with a nice sturdy root system and they transplant beautifully. Water in well and enjoy the blooms all summer long.
If you find you’ve planted your pansies in a less than ideal spot. Like in too deep of shade where they are getting spindly. Or behind a perennial that wasn’t out of the ground when you planted them that now covers them. Just dig them out and move them to a more ideal location. They don’t mind. You can also choose to plant them in containers.
Pansies are one of my favorite garden flowers. They love the cool weather and have lovely wide flowers. They make the perfect companion for a container garden, and can liven up just about any garden space. If you follow these 11 tips you should be able to keep them blooming and beautiful all season long.