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Plant pansies now for glorious colors in upcoming winter

POSTED: October 18, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Everyone loves plant color in the winter when everything else in the landscape seems to have browned and gone into dormancy. Therefore, now is the time to plant pansies like the pros and get those spring-blooming bulbs in the ground for next year.

With their many colorful faces and cold weather tolerance, pansies are the perfect winter annual to spruce up your garden beds.

Here are a few pansy planting tips.

First, don’t plant more than you can maintain.

Pansies are normally grown in 4-inch containers or smaller six packs. I prefer the large ones, because they will establish quicker and produce more flowers sooner. They will need to be watered and fertilized, so make sure you plan out how much maintenance you want to do this winter.

Second, plant them at the right time of the year.

Around here, mid to late October is an ideal time to plant.

When pansies are planted too early, the warm weather can make them stretch and look leggy in appearance. We want full lush colorful blooms.

Also, planting a little later gives them the opportune chance of cooler weather to become established for the winter.

Third, choose a color pattern.

Pansies can be purchased in an array of colors. Plant all of the same color together or make some splashy combinations of colors. White, gold or yellow pansies look wonderful with purple ones. Bright yellow and orange pansies go well with dark maroon and blue pansies. There is even a UGA red pansy color for all of you Georgia fans. Some pansies are totally one color while others have dark centers surrounded by a lighter color. These pansies are usually described as having faces.

Fourth, choose the right spot to plant them.

Pansies need full sun and good soil that drains well to prevent disease problems. Plant pansies on raised soil beds, 6 to 12 inches above the surrounding soil level. This step assures good drainage and improves their visibility, because they are more of a short mounding plant. Top the planting site with at least 4 inches of organic compost and work into the bed at least a foot deep.

Fifth, spread a good basic fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at a rate of 2 cups per 100 square feet around the planting site. Rake it in at least 4 inches from the top of the bed.

Sixth, plan your pansy bed by laying out the plants still in the pots. Leave around 8 to 10 inches between them. Then rearrange the bed until it looks the way you want it to.

Plant your bed from the inside out so you don’t walk on any of the plants. Carefully pull the plants away from their containers getting all of their roots. Dig a small hole and plant away.

Seventh, mulch the bed with at least 2 to 3 inches of pine straw or pine bark nuggets after planting. Place the mulch carefully around the plants where the mulch is not left on the leaves of the plants.

Eighth, water the pansies.

Once they are thoroughly wet, apply another liquid fertilizer such as 20-20-20. This fertilizer will be absorbed by the foliage and roots, giving the pansies one more boost at a beautiful lush burst of color and the roots will appreciate the extra nutrients as well. Apply a liquid fertilizer once a month through the growing season.

Ninth, keep the pansy beds moist, but not too wet through their initial growing stage.

Water the pansies in the morning, if possible. Water is less likely to evaporate if watering is done in the evening and could encourage more disease and root rot issues.

Last but not least, try to groom pansy beds once a week.

Removing spent blossoms and deadheading them will get rid of existing seedpods that zap the plants energy for new growth. Old blossoms could harbor disease as well. This will stimulate the plant to produce new buds and blossoms as well.

This is going to be a beautiful weekend to purchase some colorful plants and spend a day in the garden creating a beautiful winter landscape of color.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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