Real Men Plant Pansies

It is right and proper at this time to pay our respects to the pansy (Viola x wittrochiana). Actually, I am about to pull all the pansies out of my containers and replace them with summer annuals, but I will throw them onto the compost pile with only the sincerest regard.

White pansies with purple faces in our old wheelbarrow planter.
White pansies with purple faces in our old wheelbarrow planter.

Any annual that can be bought cheaply in flats is subject to a certain amount of sneering, but not from me. (I like annuals that can be bought cheaply in flats. In fact, if it can be bought in flats I make it a point not to buy it in any smaller quantity.) Moreover, “pansy” has been used as a term of contempt, but I think that usage has become obsolete.

The fact is, pansies have many admirable virtues:

  • Pansies are rugged. They stand up to cold, even hard frosts.
  • Pansies are self-reliant. They require no special coddling.
  • Pansies are adaptable. They grow in sun or shade.
  • Pansies contribute to the greater good. From early spring on, few flowers can do more to animate the garden with long-lasting splashes of color, either exciting or soothing.
Pansies add spring color to the back of the house. The red flowers are New Guinea impatiens.
Pansies add spring color to the back of the house. The red flowers in the hanging basket are New Guinea impatiens.

Pansies have only one serious weakness, and that is heat. Perhaps this is where the expression “shrinking violet” comes from. ย They cannot stand up to heat, but no annual can thrive in all conditions.

Some people prefer the pansy “faces”, but I think overall I like the solid color ones best. I like to plant lots of white and yellow pansies in spring containers, to echo the Narcissi. In containers near the front door I like to mix pansies with stock (Matthiola incana), which has a wonderful fragrance.

Pansies mixed with stock for fragrance.
Pansies mixed with stock for fragrance.

Pansies are hybrids derived from wild violet species (Viola sp.). The name pansy comes from the French pensee, or thought. At one time it was considered a symbol of remembrance. Actually, this is a flower that has collected a large number of common names around the world, including:

  • England: Heart’s ease, love in idleness.
  • Germany: Stepmother
  • Italy: Little flame.
  • Hungary: Small orphan.
  • Israel: Amnon and Tamar. This is possibly the strangest of the common names, as Amnon and Tamar are characters from a very violent Old Testament story.
Pansies brighten up my Wild Bed at the base of the silver maple.
Pansies brighten up my Wild Bed at the base of the silver maple.

Do you plant pansies in the spring? How do you use them?


58 Comments on “Real Men Plant Pansies”

  1. I got fed up with the slugs eating the pansies I gave up years ago. I know not why but bought a few trays back in October and they have done incredibly well and it’s only this week I’m having to get rid of them. Oddly enough, the ones in most sun are still going strong, I’d have expected it to be the other way around.
    You’ve had a great display there Jason – you will miss the colour until the annuals take over.

  2. I enjoy your blog very much. You always have interesting information. I never get those ones they sell at the beginning of the season because they get all “leggy” on my later in the season. Tossing them into the composer and replacing them never occurred to me.

    Writing myself a note to rectify that next year! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Your solid colored yellow pansies are awesome in that container!!! Such a beautiful flower!!! I didn’t plant any this year because I am still adding so many plants that I could not spend the money on early spring annuals…though when the money is there these are going in!!!

  4. I love pansies and violas but I have come to love them relatively late in life. I think I had never really looked at them, properly, and appreciated the variety of colours and markings. I adore the ones with ‘cat’s’ faces, in subtle mauves and pale yellows.

    Your wheelbarrow of pansies looks fantastic. It must have been difficult to put them on the compost heap !

  5. I plant pansies in the late fall and they last through most of the winter in our climate. Even if it freezes and they are lying flat on the ground, as soon as the weather warms up a bit they pick themselves up and keep blooming. If we get a really happy group of them, they’ll seed and be blooming in the spring as well but usually I rip them out of the pots to replace them in spring with other plants.

  6. Pansies or preferably the smaller violas that I prefer are my winter bedding for pots, with tulips planted under them that flower in spring. I usually plant them in October and they will flower all winter, they are actually still in one pot with lilies growing through them.

  7. Who doesn’t love a pansy? I certainly do! In North Carolina, we plant them in September or October, and they go through May before they conk out from the heat. Usually, that is. This winter was pretty brutal and I had to replant. The only bad thing about pansies is that rabbits, or deer, or both, love them. But pansies also look very nice sprinkled with hot red pepper.

  8. I love pansies and little violas. Your pansies look great in the wheelbarrow. I usually grow my own from seed, what a liberating thought that you can buy them in ready grown. It’ s like the day you realise you can buy pastry and don’ t actually need to go to all that trouble, ever again.
    And when they start to look a mess, ( the pansies, not the pastry) you can throw them away! I never do this, I always think that they can somehow be resurrected. I’ m going to take a leaf out of your book- a whole new approach to pansies.

  9. Me too, especially violas, which are still going strong from last October, they are far too pretty, healthy and generally gorgeous to chuck out. I do not plant summer bedding, mainly as I do not like it, but love violas and pansies. What is a ‘flat’ ?

  10. Your pansies still look great. I hadn’t planted them for years until this past fall when I added them to the meditation circle for some winter color. They surpassed my expectations and I soon too will need to dig them out and replace them with some summer annuals. I’m thinking red salvia (or the purple maybe).

  11. Aww, so sad to pull them out. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ But, I know what you mean about the heat. Will you put some in a pot to bring indoors or on the porch? I think I might do that one of these years. Actually, I don’t have any Pansies right now. My husband brought some home from an event last summer and they seemed to survive the early part of the winter on the back porch. But the polar vortex (even in a sheltered place) was too much for them. It always amazes me how long they last–and sometimes year-round in places like London or DC (in cool spots).

  12. Hello, I’ve already loved pansies even before i saw it in person. I’ve cross-stitched them many times. So when they finally showed their faces to me in Sweden, i was smitten and planned to get seeds to bring home. I realized later that they are sensitive to heat, so a no-no for the hot tropics. I haven’t seen the pure colors, always fancied them with those faces. I saw them not only in house gardens but also in bigger parks. Oh till now it is the love of my life, together with snowdrops and wisteria. This is the first time i see some negative information about it. So thanks for this post, i smiled.

  13. Oh yes, I love them too, but usually choose the smaller flowered ones which stand up to rain or hail better. I planted some last autumn and with the mild winter they are still looking great. New ones were addedin spring. It seems a shame to put them on the compost heap, but you are quite right as any attempt to plant them out has so far failed. They do set seed though and I occasionally get one appear in the spring from nowhere! I like your idea of using yellow to highlight the narcissi… looks lovely with the stocks.

  14. I love Viola cornuta and plant lots of them in containers in spring (what would a spring be without them). I combine them with wallflowers, grasses, persian buttercups…as they last so long it’s hard to dump them when summer comes.

  15. The planted wheelbarrow is fantastic, such an eye stopper. One of the first plants I planted in the old garden were a set of pansies and they flowered right through the summer. That encouraged me and boosted my (then non-existent) confidence in gardening. The new garden doesn’t have any pansies, but I shall be changing that when I have an opportune moment.

  16. Pingback: 25 Wheelbarrow Planter Ideas for Your Garden - Garden Lovers Club

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