Pansies as we know them were developed in the late 1700 – early 1800’s. By 1833 there were over 400 varieties in cultivation. Pansies are vibrant annual flowers that can handle a frost, lay dormant throughout winter and bloom again in the spring. If planted in the spring, they bloom until air temperatures reach 80-85° F before going dormant and often disappearing from the landscape. They came to the United States from England and Asia. The plants' common name is heartsease as they are bright, colorful and make you smile.
There are over 14 series of pansies each having numerous colors, patterns, sizes, and distinct marks. Most are cold tolerant and can be planted in fall lasting through winter and into spring therefore being called winter pansies.
They should be planted in well-draining soil that is loose and organic in morning sun or dappled sun and be mulched lightly to keep the roots from heaving in winter. They require 6 hours of sun to produce their bright flowers and do need to be deadheaded so that the spent flowers do not cause health issues from lying on the plant and rotting. Pansies do like a good drink in drought as they require a good amount of water to produce their large flowers.
Pansies have 5 petals, 1 pointing down, 2 lateral, and 2 upward. Violas, on the other hand, have 2 petals pointing up and 3 downward. They are both in the
same family and have the same light, temperature, and water requirements. Violas have smaller flowers and are usually better at spreading by seed.
Plants can reach 10 inches high and spread 12 inches across. The Cool Wave series offers trailing growth making them great for baskets or pots.
Majestic Giants, Mammoth and Colossus series are known for large flowers with either blotched or clear faces.
Delta series offer bright 2-inch flowers in single colors
Swiss Giants offer a 4-inch single colored flower.
The Frizzle Sizzle mixes offer whiskered ruffled blooms in many colors.
There are numerous other varieties and series each offering a distinct look.
To end the winter doldrums there is nothing better than planting a few pansies to make one smile.