To the new gardener, planting pansies now may seem like a futile effort considering that the first frosts of fall are looming on the horizon. Despite their name, pansies are a hardy plant that can thrive in seemingly sub-arctic temperatures. Pansies also have a rich history. Here are some amazing pansy facts:
- Pansies are a hybrid plant derived from the viola species viola tricolor.
- Originated in the early 1800s when it was first bred by William Richard, gardener to Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet (no relation to the fictional character in Pride and Prejudice).
- By 1833, there were 400 named pansy varieties available to gardeners who once considered its progenitor, heartsease, a weed.
- The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée (thought) because the flower resembles the face of a person in deep thought.
- Other names for the pansy include: heartsease (heart’s-ease), love in idleness, and flower of Jove.
- Pansies are sometimes called the “Herb Trinity,” with its three colorful petals symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
- Pansies are naturally a biennial, only blooming in their second year, but modern engineered varieties bloom during the first year (usually within 9 weeks).
By following these basic steps, your pansies can survive the winter and bloom again in the spring:
- Plant in foundation beds in protected areas facing east and north.
- In most cases pansies are hardy to -10oF.
- Fertilize initially and water throughout the dry fall season, discontinue after a hard freeze.
- Pansies may appear dormant until the growing season (March through late May).
- Pansies are not recommended in areas without protection or in unprotected containers. Root balls tend to freeze in shallow setting. Mulching may help to insulate until the spring season.
- Continuous freezing and thawing of the root balls can actually force them up and out of their holes if not properly planted.