How to Buy and Plant Pansies

Here's how to get the best bloom for both spring and fall.

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Plating Pansies

Pansies are perfect for providing color when the rest of the garden looks as if it's beginning to shut down for the season. These cool-weather lovers can actually make it through frosts — and even single-digit temperatures — and then many varieties rebound in the spring. Here are some tips for getting the best out of your pansy crop:

How to Buy

Icicle pansies — so named for their ability to withstand winter freezes — come with a money-back guarantee that the flowers will not only survive a long, icy winter but bloom again in the spring. Select compact, not leggy, plants whose foliage is deep green. Before you buy, pop the plant out of its container; if it's root-bound, don't buy. Plants that are leggy or root-bound have a hard time getting established.

When to Plant

Planting time is critical. True, pansies can weather temperatures in the single digits and bounce back after the weather warms. But they can be that strong and resourceful only if they've had a chance to get a good footing before cold weather hits. For best results, plant pansies when the soil temperature is between 45 and 65 degrees. Soil temperatures below 45 degrees at planting time result in inactive roots, stunted plants, and little or no flowering. But if you plant too early — when the soil is above 65 degrees — you'll wind up with leggy plants, yellowish leaves and few flowers. Pansies planted then are also more susceptible to frost.

How to Plant

The Icicle cultivars make pansy-planting a viable option for Northern gardeners. If you're installing pansies in an established bed, rake away existing mulch to make sure you don't incorporate it into the soil and thereby possibly create a nitrogen deficiency. Give pansies what they want: well-drained, rich soil in a sunny to partly shady location. Amend the soil with a little finished compost or rotted manure. To ensure good drainage and to help them stand out a bit more in your design, raise the planting bed by a few inches. Plant them anywhere from six to 10 inches apart; close spacing helps the bed look fuller, but wider spacing aids in good circulation and overall plant health. Deadhead the blossoms to extend flowering.

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