A: Planting pansies is one of the easiest ways to add beautiful color to your landscape, especially in cool months when other plants are not blooming. There are several things you can do to keep them looking bold and beautiful throughout the fall and winter. A few easy steps can ensure practically perfect pansies.
1. Start with good quality plants. This time of year, you can find pansies at many home and garden stores all around North Fulton. Be sure to select plants that are healthy and free of insects. Look for a compact crown with dark green leaves - avoid leggy plants or ones that are already root-bound in their containers. Pansies are sold in many different sizes. Generally, if you are planting very early, the smaller ones will have time to establish their roots. For longer bloom times, I often recommend slightly larger plants for our area. These will already have larger root systems and will be ready to bloom earlier and longer.
2. Plant at the right time in a well-prepared bed. Early October is the perfect time to plant pansies in North Fulton. Pansies hate wet feet so make sure they are planted in a bed that has good drainage. A bed elevated 6 to 8 inches above the existing grade provides good drainage and can also improve the visibility of the color display in your landscape. Be sure to remove old vegetation from existing beds and remove old mulch to minimize disease carry-over. Work in additional organic materials to improve the soil in your bed. A 25 percent by volume quantity of amendment is recommended for best results. At this point, you might consider getting a soil test (available through our North Fulton Extension office). Pansies love a pH in the range of 5.5 to 5.8.
3. Feed me! Pansies have definite feeding preferences. Avoid using the slow-release fertilizers commonly used on summer annuals. This may cause pansies to become leggy during the fall and make them susceptible to cold injury during the winter. Instead, look for a pansy-specific high-nitrate formula fertilizer and consult the label for recommended application rates.
4. Pansy maintenance is easy. Dead-head pansies by removing spent flowers on a regular basis to encourage more blooms and reduce the chances of fungal blight diseases. When cold weather arrives, pansies will naturally wilt and turn gray-green during freezing weather as a defense response. Healthy plants can survive short periods of single-digit weather.
During long cold snaps, add a layer of pine straw for protection.
For more information, search for the UGA publication “Success with Pansies in the Winter Landscape” at www.caes.uga.edu/publications.
Leaf Tip of the Week:Under-plant your pansies with bulbs for a nice pop of spring color.
Garden and lawn advice is provided by Rolando Orellana, your University of Georgia/Fulton County cooperative extension agent. For your specific gardening questions, call the North Fulton extension office at (404) 613-7670.