Don’t be a pansy — plant a pansy

Don’t be a pansy. Plant a pansy.

This plant may be a cousin to violas, but it is no shrinking violet. Pansies are one tough cookie and a good choice for bringing color to your late fall and early spring garden.

Pansy flowers come in several bright colors, and the blooms, which are overlapping heart-shaped petals, have insets of a contrasting color. Think yellow petals with dark purple insets. Some say this makes the flowers look like faces. That feels creepy.

Planting pansies in the fall will help them become established for the spring blooming season. That is the thing about pansies; they love cold weather. After fall blooming, do not count them out; they may rest a bit during the deep winter but should come back and bloom again in the spring.

When choosing a spot for planting, consider that pansies like full or at least partial sun. Planting them in containers is a good idea for several reasons.

First, it is fun to mix in early spring bulbs. As the bulbs fade and finish, the pansies will be ready to go.

Secondly, containers are easy to move to a shady spot, avoiding the warmer afternoon sun. Pansies like and need sun but will thrive in the morning sun and cool temps.

Lastly, and for me, most importantly, deer love to munch on pansies. Having them planted in containers that are easy to surround with netting or on a deck or porch offers protection from hungry animals.

Pansies are a low plant, maybe 6-8 inches tall and 4-6 inches wide. Don’t forget to water them, especially if in containers. Also, after blooming, take the time to deadhead or pinch off the old faded flowers; this will encourage the plant to produce more blooms.

Same if they become leggy — just pinch back the stems.

Like most annuals that bloom continuously, a shot of fertilizer will keep them producing. Use an all-purpose fertilizer. If it is nitrogen-heavy, you will get more leaves than flowers.

If you thought pansies having faces was spooky, let me tell you about the black devil pansy. This plant has solid black velvet-like petals with bright yellow centers, not the kind of center that creates a face, but a much smaller dot in the center of the petals.

The black devil pansy provides a good design contrast when paired with a white flower. Black and white are always in style. Use the dark color to highlight a bright bloom.

What about embracing the darkness and going all in to create a gothic garden? After all it is almost Halloween. You could include black roses, black tulips, and a bat flower. Although I have never visited a goth garden, the photos are stunning.

In some planting zones, pansies can be perennials but they are most often treated as annuals. You may choose to plant monochromatic containers, an assorted color sunny mix, or try something new and experiment with a black and white colorway.

And why not? These sassy, cold-temperature-loving flowers give you the opportunity to continue gardening, yet tell a new story through color.