Planting Pansies

Plant these delicate but hardy flowers in the fall for big spring blooms.
Yellow Pansies

Yellow Pansies

Pansies make great cool-season plantings thanks to their heartiness and color.

Photo by: Lynn Coulter

Lynn Coulter

When the temperatures drop and the summer flowers fade, colorful pansies become a focal point in our gardens, able to withstand the cold weather and bloom even after a frost. In the spring, they’re also among the first plants to bring color back into our winter-dreary landscapes.

Pansies, like violets, are in the Violaceae family. The word “pansy” comes from the French word pensée, meaning “thought” or “remembrance.”

These pretty, delicate-looking flowers are not hard to grow, but they dislike heat, and flowering often shuts down as the thermometer rises. Gardeners in hot climates often treat pansies as annuals—although they are actually cold-hardy biennials—growing them during the fall and early spring, and then composting them as summer sets in. Pansies are generally cold-hardy into USDA hardiness zone 4.

Although pansies are usually inexpensive enough to buy in flats, you can start them from seeds, if you prefer. In the South, sow pansy seeds in early fall, in well-worked soil that’s been raked free of rocks and clumps. The lower temperatures will give them a chance to develop strong roots, and fall-sown pansies may produce blossoms up to twice as large as spring-sown seeds.

Northern gardeners can plant pansy seeds in a cool room in the house or directly outdoors. After the seedlings emerge, they’ll need lots of bright, cool light to help them grow strong and sturdy. They should be hardened off, or gradually exposed to natural sunlight and temperatures, before being transplanted to the garden or outside containers.

Start your seeds in a partly shaded location, if you’re planting outdoors, and cover them lightly with soil. Water gently, so the tiny seeds don’t float away. When the seedlings emerge, in about 6 to 10 days, thin them to every 4 inches. After your pansy seedlings are about two inches tall, or when you're transplanting them from flats or pots, give them full sun.

Whether you grow them from seeds or as starter plants, pansies are heavy feeders, so fertilize them regularly. Water regularly, too, but don’t let the plants stand in puddles, which can cause root rot.

Keep your flowers deadheaded to encourage re-blooming, and mulch around them to conserve moisture. Pansies usually recover from winter weather unless the temperature stays below 15 degrees F for some time. The plants can be insulated with more mulch on top to help protect them.

Next Up

Q and A: Planting Pansies

Follow these tips on pansies.

Winter Pansies

Fill your landscape with winter pansies to paint your yard with dazzling color through the garden’s quiet season.

Planting and Growing Yarrow

Learn what you need to know about growing yarrow.

Begonias: How to Plant, Grow and Care for Begonias

Find out some begonia varieties to try in your home and garden and how to make sure they thrive with our begonia care tips.

What Would Don Draper Plant?

It's doubtful that the "Mad Men" hunk spent his mandatory leave of absence in the garden. But if he did, here's what he might have planted.

Planting Freesia, Anemone and Hyacinth

Plant these bulbs and corms in the fall for dazzling spring color.

The Franklin Tree

Add a bit of history to your landscape with this native American tree.

Southern Belle: Magnolia

This quintessential Dixie tree boasts sumptuous blossoms and rich, glossy leaves.

Benefits of Self-Sowing Plants

Introducing self-sowing plants to your garden adds big benefits at little cost.

Staggered Planting: What It Is and Why You Should Be Doing It

Use this trick of shifting planting dates to manage harvests of edible plants or flowers.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

What's New in Outdoors

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.