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A thought about pansies

By Ralph E. Mitchell

Florida makes you rethink the seasons a bit as far as planting time is concerned.  While pansies were a harbinger of spring and summer up north, they are a great winter annual here in southwest Florida.  Easy to grow with orchid-like flowers, pansies prefer the cooler weather and take the place of frost-sensitive annuals in your landscape beds.  Originally from Europe and cross-bred with Johnny Jump-Ups, pansies have had hundreds of years of selective breeding to get to what we have today.

Now is a perfect time to plant pansies!  They are finally readily available at all garden centers as individual plants or in packs of nine to twelve for ease of planting.  While some people interchange pansies and violas as they appear the same, pansies tend to have much bigger flowers with sizes up to three-inches wide. Pansy colors run the gambit from colorful blotched “faces” – the generally darker color on the lower petals –  to solid colors.  These flowers even have a have a pleasing scent.  Although you can get many colors and patterns, select and plant one color for best visual effects in a mass planting.  Pansies  will benefit from compost enhanced soil and some slow-release fertilizer at planting – blood meal has even been suggested – and do best in full sun with irrigation as needed.

While pansies look great in mass plantings, I think that having them in containers of various sizes looks just as nice and is a good fit for small spaces landscapes.  I have some in a half-barrel planter and look forward with anticipation to an over-flowing show of blooms for months ahead.  In addition to their ornamental qualities, some people use pansies as edible flowers.  I would be careful however that unless you grew them from seed yourself, those from garden centers (unless otherwise noted on the label) may be treated with certain pesticides that can have residual or systemic properties and should not be eaten.

Pansies unfortunately have an expiration date here in southwest Florida.  As soon as the weather warms up in the spring/early summer, they tend to decline and wither away.  At this point you will need to replace them with heat-tolerant bedding plants.

The word pansy comes from the French word for “thought”.  I guess that is in relation to how the smiling faces of pansies make you think and reflect about the beauty of nature!  Make your landscape smile with pansies this winter!  For more information on all types of winter annuals suitable for planting in our area, please  call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.

Resources:
Anyhony, C. (2017) Plant pansies for perfect pop of cool-weather color.  Texas A & M AgriLife Extension.
Starns, J. A. (2008) Violas or pansies: the time is right in Florida. Tampa Bay Times.
Pansies – (2017) UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.
Leymaster, K. (2017) Adding Color to central Florida Yards.   The University of Extension Service/IFAS  – Orange County.
Friday, T. (2010) Plan now for winter color.  The University of Extension Service/IFAS  – Santa Rosa County.
Gilman, E. F. & Howe, T. Viola x wittrockiana Pansy.  The University of Extension Service/IFAS .

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