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By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner Golden Gecko

Pansies are one of the most widely known and best loved of all the cultivated flowers. It is my favorite annual flower for a few reasons. First is that they are almost pest and disease free. Since we plant and enjoy them during the fall, winter, and spring when most insects and disease are dormant or not very active we don’t have to spray or bait for pests. Second, they grow during the time of the year when the rains help us to water so we don’t have to be as concerned about irrigation. Third is the magnificent range of colors and shades available. No other flower has such a great pallet of colors to choose from. They can be found in shades from pale and soft to bright and vivid. For those of us who like blue flowers, the pansy is without peer in the range of blue colors-from pale sky blue to deep royal blue.

For the gardener who wants to mix colors yet keep the size and style of the pansy plant more uniform, there are different series available that each possess distinctive characteristics such as flower and plant size, shadings of color, blotches or other markings. For example, the gardener may choose a variety of different colors of the series Imperial that will be all uniform in size and shading. Majestic Giants are a series, which have very large blooms (around 4 inches). The Crown series possesses clear, bright colors without markings and are dependable early bloomers.

The pansy is a hybrid originally developed in Europe. Although it is technically a perennial, it only grows well from seed the first year and after than it deteriorates quickly. They are usually grown as annuals or biennials. Pansies and violas are from the same family and are grown the same way. Pansies generally grow about 8 inches tall with delicate 2 to 3 inch flowers of five overlapping petals in every color and marking imaginable. The similar viola grows 6 to 8 inches tall with smaller 1 1/2 inch blooms and the color selection is not quite as broad as with the pansy. Violas have smaller flowers but they generally bloom longer than pansies.

In our area where the minimum winter temperatures don’t drop below 10 to 20 degrees pansies and violas are grown as a winter plant. Planted in the fall, they can survive the freezes and snowfall of the upper foothills. They do not grow well in heat, so we don’t grow them as summer annuals.

Because they are low growing plants, they make excellent borders and edging which are filled with brilliant color. They also are a great choice for pots and window boxes. Pansies make a delightful small bouquet of cut flowers.

Pansies and violas prefer a loose, moisture retentive soil dug deeply and enriched with compost. They thrive in full sun but can take some partial shade. Deep shade is not recommended. A steady supply of water is required so they need to be watered regularly when it does not rain. Add a standard, all- purpose liquid fertilizer, such as Master Nursery ‘Bud and Bloom’ to the water about once a month.


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