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Pansies have become the most popular cool season annual used to provide a dependable winter and early spring color display for Galveston County landscapes and gardens. Plant now and enjoy their smiling faces in your fall, winter, and early spring garden.
Photo by Dr. William M. Johnson.
Gardening: November Is Pansy Time
by Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture
Pansies have become the most popular cool season annual used to provide a dependable winter and early spring color display for Galveston County landscapes and gardens. The plants reach a height of 4-to-8 inches and provide a remarkable show of color. Their versatile use in the landscape, easy culture, and abundant blooms make them quite worthy of their popularity.
Pansies thrive in cool weather. In Galveston County, they perform best when planted during November and early December. Pansies will continue to provide blooms through the spring season which is their peak performance period.
November days are ideal for preparing pansy planting beds and for selecting healthy nursery-grown plants. Pansies should be located in areas that receive full sun or only partial shade. The soil should be well-turned to a depth of 8-to-10 inches and the addition of organic amendments, such as peat moss, garden compost, or composted manure, is beneficial.
Pansies are susceptible to several root rot diseases and they require good soil drainage for optimal performance. Therefore, the bed level should be raised several inches above the existing ground level to insure good surface drainage in areas that are not well-drained.
Pansies lend themselves to a wide range of applications in the home landscape. They are popular in large formal plantings, as borders, and in planter boxes. They are also popular as background or fill-in annuals for spring bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils. Their long season of bloom is excellent in providing rich, colorful blooms from the spring season to the bloom season of early summer annuals.
On a recent visit to two area nurseries, pansy plants were very much in evidence. The homeowner's choices of pansy varieties and colors are wide. Size of bloom ranges from one to three inches in diameter. They range in color from white to pastel shades, rich gold and yellow, burnished orange to deep rose, violet and blue, and even deeper maroons and browns. Flowers may be single-colored, streaked, or blotched. Certain types have petals with crinkled-ruffled edges, while others are smooth. The F1 hybrids offer an extended bloom time lasting well into spring due to their heat tolerance.
Choose healthy, fresh plants for planting. Most transplants are sold locally in multi-pak units or by the individual plant. Purchase stocky plants with at least 4-to-5 strong leaves. When planting the young plants, do not allow the roots to dry out. Dip the roots in water and lightly firm the soil around the base of the plant.
Space individual plants 6-to-10 inches apart to provide a solid mass of color. Be sure that the top of each transplant's potting mix is about one-fourth inch below the soil line. However, do not plant too deeply as the tender plants become more susceptible to root rot. To keep pansies blooming profusely, fertilize lightly every month with a general purpose, complete fertilizer (such as 13-13-13) or a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote. To maximize flower production, be sure to keep spent flowers pinched off.
Water the newly planted pansies well. Mulch pansy beds with shredded pine bark to provide a distinctive background contrast that enhances the green foliage and colorful flowers. During periods of extended dry weather, maintain adequate soil moisture through soaker hoses, sprinklers, etc. However, be careful to not overwater, which may promote root rot diseases.
Pansies are easy to grow and will reward a homeowner's efforts with an abundance of color. There is a place for them in every Galveston County garden. Plant now and enjoy their smiling faces in your fall, winter, and early spring garden.
Dr. Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County
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