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Pansies are a popular plant for the garden and add bright pops of color. Best kept in the fall or early spring, grow these beautiful flowers as border plants, ground cover, or in pots. In cooler climates, pansies can be kept as perennials. In warmer areas, treat them as annuals, since they will not do well in the garden in summer heat. Pansies can survive the summer in porch pots that are kept well shaded.
Most tend to purchase pansies from growers, but they can be started from seeds. Pansy seeds are small and can take awhile to germinate (1 to 3 weeks on average), so be patient. If you’re expecting a cool fall, you can start your seeds directly in the garden, otherwise, start your seeds indoors. Typically, pansies germinate best in cooler soil (between 46-65oF is ideal), and if starting indoors, forgo the heat mat.
Start seeds in well draining soil with amendments add prior to planting. Use nitrogen-rich fertilizers to start your plants. Add a well-balanced or phosphorous heavy fertilizer when flower buds appear. Space seeds 6-9” apart, pressing them into the soil and COVER with soil.
When starting indoors, avoid using a light, as pansies need darkness for germination. Covering your planting tray is also a good idea, just lift the cover every few days to promote air circulation and check your dampness levels. Mold can kill seedlings, but so can allowing them to dry out. Once your seedlings have sprouted, remove the cover and begin exposing to light. Keep your light low or rotate plants to prevent leggy sprouts. If the seeds were started indoors, wait for summer heat to die down before transplanting. Harden off the plants by exposing them to outdoor conditions a few hours at a time, starting about a week before you intend to transplant. Pansies are hardy to freezing temperatures and aren’t affected by many pests, other than slugs. Use mulch around plants to protect the roots overwinter. In areas with hot summers, keeping your plants potted will protect them from withering in the hot sun, or pick an area with nearly full shade. Pansies are water hogs, so if they look droopy, add water. Always watch the drainage around your plants, and when mulch is high around your plants, add extra water (mulch can suck some water away from the plants).