Planting Pansies and Violas in your garden

Pansies are a hardy cool-season flower that will bloom from fall through late spring.

Pansies and viola are by far the most popular cool-seasoned annual flower grown in Oklahoma. Planted in the fall, they will produce small bloom in the winter months, but come spring, they will give the gardener a splash of color that can enhance any landscape.

Pansies, “Viola wittrockiana,” are a hardy cool-season flower that will bloom from fall through late spring. When planted in full sun, they will grow about 8 inches tall. Flowers look like large flat “faces” which are up to 3 inches across the face of the flower. Colors are varied enormously from single, pastel shades to striking bicolor.

Before planting work plenty of organic matter such as manure or compost into the soil. After planting, apply a mulch to reduce the weed competition, conserve moisture and keep temperatures steady. Winter pansies need excellent drainage. Fertilize with a complete and balance water soluble fertilizer.

In Oklahoma, transplants are used to get the plant started in the soil before a hard freeze settles in. The size will range from 4- and 6-inch containers. Larger sizes will already be in bloom when they are planted so the gardener will know what colors they are purchasing. For the most immediate impact and for best rooting before winter, space the plants 8 to 10 inches apart. As the old blooms fade, keep them picked off to increase the production of new blooms.

Pansies are especially useful in interplanting beds of spring flowering plants. The pansies will fill the space all winter and into late spring. As the plants emerge and blooms, they begin to spread out covering the areas beneath themselves. This usually begins as temperatures begin to get warmer in early spring. Also, if we have a warm winter, pansies will grow and spread.

Many varieties will provide a fragrant and spring flowers in shades of yellow, white, purple, lavender and mahogany red. These blossoms are marked with contrasting colors and unusual blotches. Fortunately, more unusual colors combinations are being introduced to the industry.

Pansies are similar to another flower called “violas.” Violas are smaller than pansies but are no less prolific. What they lack in size they make up for in sheer character. Most belong to the Viola cornuta varieties and are quite hardy being planted in the fall before the first frost.

Violas grow single colors or mixture colors like “Bambini” or trailing yellow “sunbeam for hanging baskets. These plants grow about 6 inches tall making a bushy little plant for bedding or containers. One grand look is to plant them in cottage style wicker baskets.

Like pansies, viola is planted in early October to the first frost. After a frost they can still be planted but might struggle until they become establish. The pots will range from 4- and 6-inches. For the most immediate impact and for best rooting before winter, space the plants 8 to 10 inches apart.

Violas grow well in full sun or spotted light shade. The soil does not need to be over prepared but should contain some organic matter. For container grown arrangements, use a multipurpose potting soil. A light fertilizing using a water-soluble fertilizer will keep plant growing all season. Extra feeding is not necessary.

Another viola, Vola tricolor is the wild pansy, also known commonly as “heartease” or “Johnny-jump-up.” It is usually grown as a hardy annual but can be treated as a biennial.

Wild pansy is daintier than its relatives the pansy. These plants are at home in cottage-style beds and as edging. A few single-colored varieties are available, such as “Bowles Black,” having black flowers with a small central yellow eye.

Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gardening column.