Fall Pansies

by Davy Wright


Pansies are a perfect plant selection for late Fall, Winter, and early Spring Alabama gardens. They thrive in cool weather and will even survive snow. Grown as an annual in Alabama, pansies provide a wide selection of colors and sizes. 

Pansy breeding has lead to two types of pansies, one for the north and one for the south.  Northern pansies will not bloom as well here in Alabama as southern breed pansies will.  Southern series include Dynamite, Majestic Giants II, Matrix, Panola, and Supreme.

Temperatures and pH are the most important elements to survival. In Alabama, temperatures normally are too hot until the first or second week of October. The soil temperature should be less than 65F, that is soil and not air temperature. Avoiding high temperatures helps promote better plant health and prevents some diseases.  Soil pH is also important in that it determines which elements are available for plant uptake.  Pansies prefer a slightly acid soil pH of 5.6 to 6.  High pH will result in boron and iron deficiencies, while a low pH results in Magnesium deficiency.  Higher pH has also seen increases in Thielaviopsis basicola or better known as black root rot.  There are many quick fixes for soil pH and require precise attention to detail.  Too much will result in pH bounce and too little will have no effect.  Contact a local independent garden center for information on soil testing and correcting soil pH.

Plant pansies in full sun to very light shade in well-drained soil.  Spacing depends on the size of container purchased and the effect that is wanted.  Large 3-1/2 to 4 pot containers with larger plants can be spaced up to 8 apart while smaller 6-pack plants can be spaced 6.  The amount of time for each to fully cover the area will be the determining factor, as larger plants will cover faster than small plants.  But with the right care, the smaller plants will make a greater impact, simply by having more plants in the area.  Smaller plants can also be double planted, not costing much more than larger starting plants, and will quickly catch up with greater impact.  Mulching after planting will help keep roots cool for extended late Spring blooms.

Watering pansies changes as the seasons change from warm to cool back to warm.  Pansies will require more water in Fall and Spring than in Winter. Overwatering will lead to crown and root rot, which can not be corrected once it happens.  Using water soluble fertilizer is an excellent supplement for pansy plantings.  Slow release fertilizers are less effective during cool temperatures due to the fact that the releasing mechanism to directly affected by temperatures below 70F.  Water soluble fertilize comes in many forms, the best for pansies in a ratio of 5-1-7, 5-1-10, or 6-1-6.  Examples of these ratios would be 15-3-20, 15-3-30, or 13-2-13.  While these are not the only available formulas, using these ratios on other available formulas can help determine which to use.  Avoid using high phosphorus as this will lead to plant stretch and the fact that phosphorus moves through soil slowly and can quickly build up in excessive amounts. 

Pinch off old blooms to promote new flowers and growth.  Cut back leggy, stretched plants to promote increased branching and more compact growth.  Using these tips and suggestions can help grow beautiful pansies for showy color in fall, winter, and early spring.












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