Don’t let the pretty faces fool you; violas and pansies are garden workhorses.
There aren’t many annual flowers that work as hard under such inhospitable conditions as violas (Viola tricolor) and pansies (Viola x wittrockiana). These dainty-looking plants will tolerate cold climates as far north as zone 4. Plant them in fall and they will power on through winter and bloom with enthusiasm the following spring.
PLANTING PANSIES AND VIOLAS
When you purchase violas and pansies look for robust, compact plants. Healthy plants will transplant easier and become established quicker.
Plant pansies and violas in early fall so the roots can get established before the first freeze. Space them 6-inches apart.
Choose a location that receives full sun to partial shade with well-drained soil enriched with compost.
Mulch around plants to keep roots cool and moist.
CARING FOR PANSIES AND VIOLAS
Fertilize pansies and violas when you plant them and then once a month, if the weather allows. Water when the top 1-inch layer of soil is dry.
DESIGNING WITH PANSIES AND VIOLAS
Pansies are available in just about any color under the sun, including black. Violas are most often available in shades of blue, purple, yellow and white. For the most attractive display choose colors in the same family or mix it up with two contrasting colors. If you choose contrasting colors, allow one color to dominate. For example, if you choose yellow and blue plant more yellow than blue or blue than yellow.
To maximize visual interest combine violas and pansies. The varying bloom sizes give the planting texture.
Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are good bedfellows for violas and pansies. Plant the bulbs in first and overplant them with violas and pansies. The bulbs will emerge in spring through the foliage of the pansies and violas.
Images courtesy of P. Allen Smith