Growing Tips and Planting Ideas for Fall Pansies

Kick off the cool weather by filling containers and planting beds with colorful pansies.

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Proven

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Plant Pansies for Fall Color

Count on pansies for living color when temperatures tumble. First developed in England in 1812, pansies still reign as the cool weather color champion. New introductions include Cool Wave Spreading pansies (shown), which spreads 18 to 24 inches in planting beds. For a can’t-miss color show, fill beds with pansies in single colors, or buy what’s known as a “formula mix,” a custom color blend created by plant breeders to open in eye-pleasing shades. The lower bed (above) features a formula mix sold as Cool Wave Berries ‘N Creme Mixture spreading pansy.

Choose Healthy Pansies

For the best results in terms of color, cold hardiness and overall growth, buy pansies like landscapers do, picking up larger cell packs or 3- or 4-inch pots. These plants have bigger root balls, which means plants will take off more quickly in beds and containers. Check roots to make sure they’re healthy like this — having many white, fibrous roots on the outside of the root ball. The best time to plant pansies is when leaves on trees first start to change color. Soil temps should be between 45° F and 65° F.

Create a Container Garden

Look for pansy formula mixes with color blends to suit every season. Panola Autumn Blaze pansy boasts blossoms in burgundy and gold, shades perfect for the fall. Panola pansies are multiflora types, which open smaller flowers on shorter stems, giving plants a thick covering of blooms. Panola is an overwintering pansy, the kind that garden centers guarantee to survive winter and usher in spring with fluttering flowers. Pansies in pots won’t survive winter in colder zones, where soil can freeze solid. For best winter survival, tuck Panola pansies into planting beds.

Learn More: Potting Pansies

Plant a Pumpkin

For chic fall flair, tuck pansies into pumpkins or other gourds. You can either plant directly into a pumpkin that you’ve hollowed out or slip a potted pansy into a pumpkin (which may help the pumpkin to last a little longer). A faux pumpkin is also a good low-maintenance option.

See More Photos: 10 Pumpkin Decorating Ideas

Fill a Hanging Basket

Cool Wave Spreading pansies strut their stuff beautifully in hanging baskets with stems that cascade 18 to 24 inches. Water is one secret to success with fall-planted pansies. Water well at planting time, and be sure to water plants thoroughly before cold snaps. If the cold is strong enough to freeze the soil around pansy rootballs, roots cannot absorb water until soil thaws.

Dress Window Boxes

Take advantage of the new pansy breeding by tucking Cool Wave Spreading pansies into window boxes where their stems will create a waterfall of bloom. For pansies in containers, mix a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer into soil prior to planting. This is a secret to strong growth and a steady flower show. In window boxes, pair pansies with upright coppery leatherleaf sedge, like this Bronco ColorGrass sedge.

Edge a Bed

A spreading-type pansy formula mix provides a colorful edging for planting beds. Pair it with grass-like leatherleaf sedge for a season-long show that keeps going strong even after cold temps arrive. For pansies in beds, fertilize at planting time with water-soluble plant food to give plants a solid start. In warmer zones, don't give pansies a high-nitrogen fertilizer during September to avoid causing plants to stretch.

See More Photos: 15 Striking Plants for Winter Color

Plant Rainbows of Color

Count on pansies to design landscape plantings featuring single colors. All but the white blossoms in this bed are Panola pansies, a multiflora type that unfurls high numbers of smaller flowers. In landscape beds, give pansies plenty of space, arranging plants 8 or 10 inches apart. It may look sparse at first, but plants will fill out. Wider spacing provides good air circulation around plants, lowering the chances of disease or pest outbreaks.

Mix and Match With Bulbs

Pansies and spring bulbs like tulips make excellent planting partners. Tuck bulbs into the soil in fall, then add winter-hardy pansies. In spring, watch the magic unfold. This pansy is Panola XP True Blue Pansy, a multiflora type that stands up to winter chill without missing a blooming beat. To help pansies survive when temps drop below 20° F for several hours, cover plants with a frost blanket or a 2- to 4-inch-thick loose mulch like pine straw (gently rake it off when air temps rise). Healthy pansies can typically withstand single digits for short spells without extra protection.

Learn More: Planting Bulbs

Fill a Pot to Overflowing

Create a colorful container garden packed with annuals that thrive during cool weather, including Anytime Pansiola, a heat-tolerant pansy that’s winter hardy in Zones 5 and higher. It pairs beautifully with Dark Knight sweet alyssum and Sunsatia Lemon nemesia. In pots or planting beds, removing faded and frost-damaged pansy flowers keeps plants from forming seed pods and reduces disease outbreaks.

Learn More: 25 Plants and Trees for Winning Fall Color

Plant for Long-Lasting Color

Pansies bring strong cool-season color in containers that can last well into the New Year in regions with mild winters. Choose pot planting partners that also deliver a long show, like upright Blue Arrows juncus, a type of rush, and trailing sweet alyssum. For longest lasting color, keep pots in a sheltered spot on a porch. When air temps fall below 25° F, pansies look wilted and leaves turn gray-green. This is a typical response to cold air. Plants rebound as air temperature rises.

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