Linda Geist
  • Cool Wave yellow trailing pansy
    Cool Wave yellow trailing pansy
Your Show-Me Garden: MU Extension brings you gardening tips from experts around the state.

COLUMBIA, Mo.–There is no more popular cool-season flower than the delicately fragranced pansy.

“A flower for all seasons, pansies usher in spring with their vibrant color,” says David Trinklein, University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.

Pansies and snapdragons are the first annual flowers to appear in commercial greenhouses, Trinklein said. They are usually sold in bedding-plant “packs.” Gardeners should look for plants that are  “stocky,” with healthy leaves and free from pests. Plants with unopened buds will produce a greater display of color than those with many open flowers.

Pansies enjoy cool temperatures and sunny days, a combination found in the Midwest only in spring and fall.

The pansy should be considered an annual in Missouri, Trinklein said, although pansies planted in the fall frequently survive winters here. To extend the useful life of pansies in the spring, choose an exposure of morning sun followed by afternoon shade.

Pansies have fine, delicate root systems and should be planted in porous soil highly enriched with organic matter. Incorporate up to 4 inches of well-decomposed organic matter into the soil each spring before planting, Trinklein said. Additional fertilizer may be required.

Plant pansies 6 to 10 inches apart and water well, directing the water to the base of the plant. Don’t let the soil become dry; add 1-2 inches of water weekly. Supply additional fertilizer in water-soluble form.

Pansies are relatively disease- and pest-free. Yellow leaves indicate root rot, usually due to overwatering. Choose a location with good air circulation to prevent a disease called powdery mildew, which shows itself as a white, powdery substance on the leaves.

One of the new pansies on the market this year is the Cool Wave. It displays the most prostrate growth habit of any spreading pansy and can trail up to 30 inches, making it a great spiller in mixed combinations, Trinklein said. Its mid-size blooms hold up well in rain and weather and come in five color choices.

A 2011 debut was Pansy Freefall. Early-flowering Freefall pansies start as low mounding plants and develop into their full spreading or cascading habit as they grow.

About pansy

Pansy is a member of the Violacea family and carries the scientific name of Viola x wittrockiana. It is a hybrid derived from viola, a flower with which it is often confused. Both species have flowers consisting of five petals. However, pansy has four petals pointing upward and one pointing down, whereas viola has three pointing upward and two pointing down. Additionally, pansies usually bear somewhat lager flowers than do violas.

The word “pansy” can be traced back to the French word pense, which means “thought” or “remembrance.”

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